Community work order for bird poisoners

Couple who killed more than 1,700 birds to sell or eat must undertake 1,800 hours of community service that includes bird protection, forestry maintenance and cleaning up rivers.

A couple who poisoned more than 1,700 protected wild birds in Chongming District have been ordered to undertake 1,800 hours of community work over the next two years to include bird protection, forestry maintenance and river cleaning.

The public service order is the first to be imposed in a criminal case in order to compensate for damage to the environment, according to the Shanghai Railway Transport Procuratorate.

Prosecutors said the order was in addition to 30,000 yuan (US$4,500) the couple must pay in compensation for greenbelt recovery in Chongming.

The husband, surnamed Chen, was sentenced to seven months in jail while his wife, surnamed Shen, was given a reprieve.

Prosecutors said the couple had sown poisoned wheat seeds on farmland in their bid to hunt and kill wild birds on the island between July and August last year. Their total haul was 1,763 protected wild birds including spotted turtle doves, oriental turtle doves, red turtle doves and long-tailed shrike.

Most of the birds were sold for game meat while the couple ate the rest.

The Chongming farmers were detained in August and prosecutors said the two’s deeds should be considered not only a crime but something that had greatly damaged the island’s ecosystem and was detrimental to the public interest. They filed a civil suit along with criminal charges.

The value of the birds was put at 502,100 yuan. Because this sum was far beyond the couple’s ability to pay, prosecutors recommended public service instead of the full amount of compensation.

The procuratorate organized mediation between the couple and the local government, during which the two sides reached an agreement.

The couple were ordered to pay 30,000 yuan for the recovery of the greenbelt in Chongming and do community work that would involve removing bird traps and cleaning waterways and forests for no less than 1,800 hours within two years.

Chen and Shen also paid another 50,000 yuan to the local government.

Under Chinese criminal law, people who illegally hunt and kill rare and endangered wildlife or buy, transport and sell the animals or birds or their products will be given a jail term of no more than 5 years. If the circumstances are particularly serious, the length of imprisonment could be 10 years or more.

In June last year, a man who caught wild birds on Chongming Island was sentenced to six months in jail with a one-year reprieve.

The man, surnamed Gu, was also ordered to make a public apology and pay 10,500 yuan.

Gu had captured 37 wild birds, 35 of which were protected, with the intention of eating them at home. 

The case was the city’s first where prosecutors filed a public-interest lawsuit against a defendant after they were granted the right in 2017 to sue people who harm the public interest by damaging the ecosystem.

Chongming, which has a bird nature reserve, bans wildlife hunting. Gu was aware, but still caught the birds. His illegal actions damaged the area’s wildlife resources, a court said, caused losses to the state and were detrimental to public interest.

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