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City's illicit bird nest trade a headache for neighbours

Update: June, 25/2012 - 09:21

HCM CITY — The high profits from raising swifts for their nests means many people in HCM City's inner districts do it, affecting neighbours and the environment.

A kilogramme of swift nests fetches US$1,500-2,000 for the harvesters and even more on the retail market.

Normally people create ideal conditions in buildings for swifts to come and nest, and attract them by playing the birds' own recorded chirps.

But Minh Tung, whose neighbour raises the birds in Vo Van Tan Street in District 3, said the chirps of the flock when they fly out of and into the house give people a headache.

"Everyone here is tired of the noise and the bad odour coming from the house," he said.

The noise peaks as dawn and dusk, he said.

The birds nest in the top floor of the four-storey building.

In residential Area No. 5 on Le Duc Tho Street in Go Vap District, Hoang Dai said the loud recorded chirps played to attract the birds from 5:30pm to 6pm every day affect his family as well as other neighbours who cannot rest or study.

"Neighbouring families have told the house owner about the noise, but there is no change," he said. The sub-department of Rural Development admitted it has received many complaints about the noise from houses with swift nests.

Phan Xuan Thao, head of the Sub-department of Animal Health, said raising swifts was allowed only in Can Gio District and was illegal elsewhere.

HCM City is one of the swift raising hotspots in the country, according to Tran Thuan, an experienced farmer.

Houses to farm the birds have been built in every district, especially in outlying ones like Binh Thanh, Go Vap, Thu Duc, Binh Chanh, Hoc Mon, and Can Gio, he said.

In inner districts, many families have renovated homes and warehouses or built new houses designed to raise swifts on the top storey.

"However, not every farmer is successful," he said. The success depends solely on being able to attract the birds to the site to build nests, failing which it could be money down the drain. Typically, the farmers spend VND1-2 billion ($47,600-95,200) on the house.

Prof Nguyen Thi Dieu Thu of the Tropical Biology Institute said ideally the houses must be built far away from the city centre, amusement sites, and airports and in rural and island areas where swift live.

The farmers must get licenses and quarantine certificates, she said, adding there must be regulations limiting the volume of the recorded noises they use.

In 2008 the People's Committee gave permission for raising swifts in Can Gio District.

Now, a family raising the birds on an area of 250-400sq.m harvest around 10kg of nest a month.

The highly lucrative business has proved a magnet for many people who come to Can Gio for the purpose, most of them without licences.

Besides, many of their houses are located in residential areas, causing noise pollution and the risk of bird flu outbreaks.

Last year around 900kg of nests was harvested in the city, according to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. — VNS

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