City feeding wild swans a recipe for disaster: experts

Updated 2018-02-12 10:18:03

Forestry police in a Northwest China city are feeding a flock of migratory swans that visit the city annually dozens of kilograms of flatbread a day.

Though the swan's presence is a win with locals, experts have repeatedly warned against feeding bread to water birds, as it is low in nutrients and can be harmful to the environment.

Officers in Korla, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have been feeding the flock of around 230 swans since 2008.

The bulk of the diet is naan, a staple flatbread in Uyghur cuisine.

"Every day we feed them 250 naans, 10 kilograms of fish and 15 kilograms of corn," said Yasenyidayeti, an officer with Korla's Municipal Bureau of Landscape and Forestry.

The white swans arrive in October before flying north to the Bayanbulak Grasslands National Nature Reserve for the summer.

Every winter the birds consume over 30,000 naan, officers said, adding the breads are made without oil for the sake of the swan's digestion.

Though many on social media praised the officers, some experts raised concerns.

"Though some feeding may be necessary for protection of endangered species affected by food shortages and climate change, we do not support such large-scale artificial feeding of wild swans," an expert with the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, a China-based NGO, told the Global Times.

In addition, a steady diet of high-calorie, low nutrition bread has been documented to lead to "angel wing" - a deformity in young swans that results in twisted wing joints.

"If they must be fed, foods like corn, rice and grains are best suited for wild birds," said the expert.

"It has to be comparable to the bird's natural diet. Plus, feeding of wild animals must be done sparingly as not to upset the ecological balance."

Large-scale feeding can influence the migratory path of birds and negatively affect their ability to forage for food.

"Similar trends have been observed in many places in China, so we must strengthen our scientific approach to such feeding," said the expert.

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