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[Opinion] Mongolian Eagles

Posted January. 18, 2006 03:00,   


The eagle is the king of birds of prey. Its wingspan is between 2.5 to 3.0 meters long, and it weighs around 8.0 to 10kg and is equipped with eyesight 10 to 12 times keener than humans, making them capable of spotting a rabbit from 2.0km above ground.

Of all eagles, the Mongolian eagle is smart and strong, and has been used in hunting, the only eagle to be used in this capacity in the entire world, since times of Genghis Khan. It preys on pheasants, rabbits, and larger animals such as antelope, making it the “king of king of the sky.”

According to research by the Cultural Properties Administration, it has been discovered that recently about 1,700 Mongolian eagles flew to the Korean Peninsula and are spending their winter here. This number is over half of the world’s eagle population estimated to be around 3,000.

Since 1994, the Korean Association for Bird Protection (KABP) has been feeding pork and chicken to Mongolian eagles coming to Jangdan peninsula, Paju, Gyeonggi Province and Cheolwon, Gangwon Province, and since then, their numbers have soared from the original 100 or so that came every year.

The problem is that the eagles are losing their wildness to the point of plainly staring at people approaching them. Young eagles, below three years old, that enjoyed such easy lives in the Korean Peninsula, cannot adjust to the harsh competition for food when they return to Mongolia, so they either die or return to Korea. It is the product of overprotection.

Just as the same, in the human world, overprotection and handouts that ignore market principles result in loss of competitive edge and decline. A simple example would be Argentina, which 50 years ago was among the seven global powers and a leading exporter of beef and grain. But due to populism, or Peronism, that appeased to the labor class, wages were raised by an annual 20 percent. The result: 44 percent of the population living in poverty as of 2002, and full unemployment rate around 18.3 percent.

In most developed countries, such as Britain, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, more emphasis was put on distribution than growth after their GDP per capita reached $10,000, and they went through a phase of slowing growth rates due to excessive expenditures on welfare and national budget deficits. According to studies by civic research centers, it took these countries an average of 9.2 years to overcome the $10,000 barrier. One of their secrets was political leadership that persuaded and controlled demands such as, “Now let’s share the fruits of growth,” calling for equality and welfare in order to promote further growth.

The Bible mentions that teaching fishing is preferable to giving a fish. This seems to ring true for both humans and animals alike.

Lee Dong-kwan, Editorial Writer, dklee@donga.com