Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Folly of ‘Freeing’ Animals

Global Times, 7/23/12, By Shen Shushu

Recently, hundreds of dead fish were found in the Huangpu River near the Bund. The initial reaction was that the fish must have fallen victim to water pollution, but this turned out not to be the case. The fish had been deliberately released into the river, and because this species, the crucian carp, is not native to the river and are not accustomed to such high temperatures, they quickly perished. 
This is not the first case of people "freeing" animals from capture, only for this action to ironically hasten their demise. The act derives from certain religious beliefs in which it is thought that good "karma" or luck will accrue to a person who releases animals back into their natural habitat. Since 2005, hundreds of animals of many species - catfish, snails, turtles, and even crocodiles and piranhas - have been dumped in lakes and ponds in parks in many downtown areas including the City God Temple and Xujiahui.
The problem is that these "do-gooders" are actually upsetting the ecological balance of nature by releasing species into environments in which they will do more harm than good. For example, naturally aggressive species of fish such as catfish and blackfish (species of angelfish) need to be bred separately in ponds; in rivers they will quickly overrun, and even wipe out native species. Unfortunately angelfish are often chosen to be released by these misguided good-fortune hunters because in certain belief systems these fish are said to have "holy genes."
Overseas species such as the red-eared turtle, nicknamed the Brazilian turtle, will also wreak devastating consequences if they are mixed with local species in rivers, causing untold damage to the biological diversity of our waterways.
And if you imagine we are talking about people picking up a few fish at the local wet market, putting them in a bag, and then slinging them into the nearest river or canal - then think again. There are cases on record of people ordering 40,000 yuan ($6,264) worth of fish and then driving the load to the Huangpu River and pouring the lot in. The fish are kept in water-filled tank at all times, so that they don't die during the journey. It was reported that these lorry loads were actually followed by fishermen so that they could set about re-catching the fish as soon as possible!
If people insist on carrying out this traditional ritual, I would suggest that they learn more about the species they intend dealing with and making sure that they release them back into the same kind of environment in which they were bred.

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