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Science Insider: Experts condemn China’s training of monkeys to destroy bird nests

Science article by Christina Larson, September 2, 2015:

“BEIJING—Tomorrow, China’s government ….(is) staging an airshow with jet fighters.

To safeguard China’s rarely seen military aircraft….the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has trained a squadron of male rhesus macaques to search and destroy nests ….

The monkeys’ deployment began in late spring…. “Our airfield is located along one of the eight flyways, the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, so large numbers of migrating birds come here around March every year and begin nesting near the airport, which creates significant safety hazards for flight,” Su Chuang, leader of the bird control team at an airbase under Beijing military command, told People’s Liberation Army Daily.

PLA taught the macaques to scramble up trees and dismantle nests by pulling out twigs, airbase commander Wang Yuejian told China Daily in May: “Our statistics show that the two monkeys have taken out about 180 nests over the past month.”…. the monkey method was an “ecological approach,” ….

Scientists and birdwatchers knowledgeable about the East Asian-Australasian Flyway—which spans 22 countries and is arguably the world’s most threatened flyway—question both the utility and the ecological logic of PLA’s scheme.

Spike Millington, chief executive of the nonprofit East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership….says that indiscriminate nest removal is not conducive to the army’s stated objective: “Small birds are not a threat to planes, only larger species like gulls and geese are usually involved in airstrikes.”

Nor is nest destruction without environmental impacts, …. For nests dismantled by monkeys in the spring, when birds lay eggs and feed young, “such an approach would likely result in quite high mortality [of nestlings, young birds too young to fly] and also in temporary abandonment of the colony, leading to reduced breeding success,” says Nial Moores, an independent researcher and director of the nonprofit Birds Korea in Busan….

For birds harassed in the fall, close to the military parade date, Townshend explains that the main issue is not the nests themselves…(but) the ability of migratory birds to rest and refuel between long legs of their journey. …

Moores points out that alternative methods of reducing the risk of potential air strikes with larger birds exist. “Generally in North America and Europe, landscaping is used to help birds keep away from runways…”

Please follow the link to the full story here, at Science, and share:
http://news.sciencemag.org/asiapacific/2015/09/experts-condemn-china-s-training-monkeys-destroy-bird-nests