A buzzard is released into the wild on Nov 30 on the outskirts of Beijing. (China News Service)
Two injured buzzards were released into the wild on Nov 30 after being nursed back to health at the Beijing Raptor Rescue Center in the Jiufeng National Forest Park, on the outskirts of the capital.
GPS tracking data on Tuesday showed one of the birds of prey had flown to southern Henan province, while the other reached a county south of Shijiazhuang in Hebei province.
The common buzzard is a wildlife species accorded second-level State protection. Yet they are still the target of poachers.
Zhou Lei, who works at the rescue center, said one of the birds, which was sent to the center by citizens on Oct 12, had a slingshot pellet in its body. The other, received on Nov 16, had wounds to its mouth, chest and feathers.
"If a raptor has to be sent to our center that generally means it is terminally ill and we only have a small chance of saving it," Zhou said.
He said the untamed nature of such birds makes them difficult to treat. "Sometimes they tear off bandages just after we wrap them up. We had to make an Elizabeth collar for one," he said, referring to the conelike headgear often seen on injured cats and dogs.
Before release, the center fitted the buzzards with GPS trackers, enabling its workers to monitor the birds' flight altitude and geographic coordinates.
"If we find that the buzzard is no longer moving, we search for it, as we may need to rescue it again," he said.
Deng Wenhong, executive director of the rescue center and a professor at Beijing Normal University, said the solar-powered GPS trackers are made in China and weigh 17 grams.
They can recharge as many as 500 times with direct light, oblique light and weak light. After the battery is depleted in two or three years, they automatically drop off.
"Raptors are at the top of the food chain," Deng said.
"They are the 'dominators' and 'regulators' of other species, critical to maintaining the stability of ecosystems. By tracking them, we not only learn their life-history traits, but also the characteristics of other species within their territory."
About 80 percent of the 4,475 birds of prey helped by the rescue center last year were injured. Almost 15 had received wounds from nets, air guns or slingshots used by poachers.
Other causes of injury included eating poisoned mice and hitting glass window panes.
"The two buzzards were lucky to be found early and receive professional treatment. But they still face the danger of being caught or killed," Zhou said.
"It is crucial to raise the awareness of citizens to protect and help raptors. It is unrealistic for rescue centers to organize patrols for injured animals."