Go to contents

[Opinion] Hu Jintao’s Crested Ibises

Posted July. 31, 2008 08:48,   


“Hiding in a forest but apparently in sight / the birdsong of a crested ibis is sad…”

This line is from the children’s song “Crested Ibis” by Yoon Guk-yeong. Designated Special Natural Monument No. 198, the ibis is one of the rarest birds in the world. The bird is presumed to have gone extinct on the Korean Peninsula because none have been spotted here since 1979. But the internationally protected bird is likely to still be somewhere in Korea, thanks to a gift by Chinese President Hu Jintao. Visiting Korea in May, Hu promised to send the crested ibises in early October. The species, which is on the critical endangered species list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, is considered the national bird of China.

The birds from China are expected to inhabit a marsh in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province. Expecting them to arrive before the international conference Ramsar COP 10 Task Force (Oct. 28 to Nov. 4), the province has hastened its efforts to restore wetlands that will serve as the birds’ habitat. To recover the swamp areas, the province has relocated nearby farm houses and is using the least amount of pesticide possible through consultations with nearby farmers. Out of concern, the province is said to have asked China to send experts to care for the birds.

The airlift process for the birds won’t be easy. For example, selecting which birds to be shipped requires careful quarantine. Double the slated number of birds is chosen and a bird is replaced if found to have an illness. Each quarantine process takes about 21 days. During the airlift, a bird watcher and avian expert are required to accompany the birds under Chinese requirements. For these reasons, Seoul is reviewing the use of a private flight for that purpose. Furthermore, a birdcage to carry the crested ibises has been manufactured by Chinese experts.

China’s gift of the precious birds to Japan has bore fruit. In 1999, then Chinese President Jiang Zemin offered a pair of ibises to Japan, which has since increased the bird’s number to about 100. Japan will reportedly release them into the wild this fall. Environmentalist Lee In-shik said the habitat conditions of the wetland in Changnyeong is considered as good as those in China and Japan. We expect to see the internationally rare birds to breed and flourish in Korea someday.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)