The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 ended North America's tragic (and fascinating) market-gunning era. Ducks could no longer legally be shot for fancy restaurants and, though many flouted the law, over several years the practice dried up. However, the aftershocks are still being felt. It's arguable that certain species have never fully recovered from the decades-long slaughter.
There's simply no place in conservation for a system in which restaurants—or any enterprise—reward the unregulated killing of wild game. Thankfully such an arrangement shows no signs of returning in the United States, but in China an underground network is apparently alive and well.
As reported by Chinese media, villagers from Peixian, Jiangsu Province, China, were arrested in May for the capture of an astounding 20,000 moorhens.
"The loss of 20,000 moorhens will definitely threaten the local species and eco-environment," said Liu Chanmin, an associate professor at the College of Life Science of Jiangsu Normal University.
Moorhens are a coot-like member of the rail species with apparent economic and research value in China. According to police, the villagers were caught with 700 moorhens packed in crates and ready for sale in Guangzhou, China.
How in the world did they capture so many? Police say a villager downloaded moorhen courtship sounds to his MP3 player, which lured the birds into traps. That villager alone is thought to have made an estimated $4,803 (a nice sum in rural China) from illegal sales prior to his arrest.
It's a stark reminder that when monetary value is assigned to wild game, disaster ensues.