Bird Merit Release at Phnom Penh Riverside Temple2015-05-29 (642)
Today I visited a small temple right across the Palace of the King of Cambodia on the banks of the Mekong river. I was again shocked to see the amount of birds that were crammed into small cages. I saw more than 200 Baya Weavers (Ploceus philippinus) and Streaked Weavers (Ploceus manyar) in one of the cages. As I am a keen PHOWN fanatic, I asked them where they caught the birds as to enable me to photograph their nests. The lady selling the birds told me that they catch them in the provinces far away from Phnom Penh. This means that they are transported for hours to where they are sold. Many are in such a weakened state that they are hardly capable of flight after their release. They also feed seed to the birds and the insect eaters like Barn Swallows, Sand Martins, Bee-eaters and in some instances even owls and hoopoes are so malnourished that they are unable to fly away and after being released are quickly caught again by the bird sellers to be re-sold to people who are keen to release them to score a few merits.
It seemed to me that the most abundant birds were weavers, Scaly-breasted Munias and sparrows. What a sad start for the PHOWN experience in Cambodia.
by Pieter Cronje, 26 May 2015
(also see paper about merit release in Cambodia)