Words and images by Amar-Singh HSS
Species: White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus phoenicurus
Location: Near Canning Garden Home, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Date: 22nd August 2010
Equipment: Nikon D90 SLR with Tamron AF Zoom 200-500mm, handheld
I was watching birds around the neighbourhood (up to 1-2 km away) and visited sites I have been “neglecting”. One is a large, overgrown, longstanding stalled housing project where lots of birds have found a habitat over the years including many White-breasted Waterhen, Rails, etc.
I met this very unpleasant piece of work this morning. It was the first encounter for the day. Saw what appeared to be an injured White-breasted Waterhen at the edge of the bushes. On inspection I thought it had snagged itself on some fishing twine. Closer inspection showed that this was a crude but effective trap that some evil person had devised. In searching the area I subsequently discovered another similar trap (see picture). Some fishing twine is anchored to a heavy piece of wood and a hook attached at one end. The hook is baited with some food and, when the Waterhen eats it, it is impaled in the throat.
I took my camouflage cloth and covered the frantic bird to quieten it. I then tried to remove the hook but it had stuck too deep in the oesophagus. It already looked unwell and any attempt to pull it out would have resulted in death. I considered a number of options and again wished again that we had a bird/animal hospital. It definitely needed major surgery. I finally decided to cut the twine close to the mouth and let the poor bird free. Not the best option as it may well die of starvation but at least in the wild
Not pleased with myself but extremely angry with these individuals who can inflict such harm to animals. I destroyed both traps but this is not the end of it. I have noticed in recent years an increased onslaught on our wild life due to many factors – one being a rising migrant work force. Have spotted some migrant works, who are generally poorly paid, supplementing their income with catching wild life (not that Malaysian do not do the same!).