Chinese Crested Tern nearing extinction

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    Martin W

      When I started birding in China in mid-1980s, dreamed of seeing Chinese Crested Tern – which hadn’t been reliably seen for at least a decade.
      Here I am over 20 years later, and still dreaming! Seemed more likely I could see them, lately, as a few nesting pairs have lately been discovered in Taiwan Strait, plus a few sightings of migrants.
      But now, bad news from Birdlife International:

      A study of Chinese Crested Tern highlights that the global population has fallen to less than fifty individuals, half what they were just three years ago.

      The study believes that the main cause of this decline is an unregulated expansion in trade for seabird eggs, a local delicacy that has risen in demand alongside a thriving tourist economy.

      Without urgent action conservationists have given the bird less than five years before disappearing completely from its two remaining breeding areas.

      Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernstein is China’s rarest bird, listed by BirdLife International as Critically Endangered – the most severe threat category.

      First discovered in 1861 and rarely recorded since, Chinese Crested Tern was largely presumed extinct until 2000, when four adults and four chicks were found amongst a colony of other tern species on Matsu, an island off the coast of Fujian Province. In 2004, it was discovered breeding at another site: Jiushan Islands, on the coast of Zhejiang Province of eastern China. At present these are the only known breeding sites in the world.

      “We all thought we had lost this species sixty years ago and were so happy to hear of its rediscovery in 2000,” commented Simba Chan, Senior Conservation Manager at BirdLife’s Asia Division. “Its survival in Fujian and Zhejiang waters was probably due to the tension between Beijing and Taipei.”

      “It would be such an irony if the Chinese Crested Tern survived amid the hostility in the Taiwanese Strait, yet becomes extinct now the relationship between Beijing and Taipei gradually normalises,” he added.

      “Alarm-call” for China’s rarest bird

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