China 'conscripts' monkeys and falcons

Chinese airmen training falcons to drive away other birds from a parade ground to be used for a huge military parade in Beijing on Thursday.
Chinese airmen training falcons to drive away other birds from a parade ground to be used for a huge military parade in Beijing on Thursday.PHOTO: CHINAFOTOPRESS

BEIJING • China's air force has called monkeys and falcons into service to ensure safe skies for a huge military parade this week to mark Japan's defeat in World War II, reports said.

Almost 200 aircraft will take part in the event on Thursday.

The animals have been deployed at an air force base involved in the parade, which officer Wang Mingzhi said was in a bird migration corridor - with 400 to 500 species present - potentially affecting the safety of aircraft.

Pictures on news portal Sina show a macaque on a red leash standing on its hind legs and mimicking the salute of an officer in a camouflage uniform beside it.

The monkeys had "mastered" the skills to destroy bird nests, Mr Wang was quoted as saying.

"There is no problem doing this," he said in the report posted on Sunday, adding that the animals had "graduated" after being trained for one month.

The monkeys take twigs out of nests one by one before shaking the remaining parts down from the tree, Sina said, adding the whole process takes only about a minute.

Shotguns and water cannons were used to get rid of nests before but were not as efficient or "economical" as the macaques, it said.

The monkeys are rewarded for the efforts with pieces of corn, according to reports.

Falcons were also being trained to drive away airborne birds, pictures showed. Three to four of the raptors were sent into the sky every day to "deter" other flyers, Mr Wang was cited as saying by the Beijing News.

Thursday's parade, a show of strength which comes as Beijing takes a more assertive stance regionally, will also see 12,000 soldiers and 500 pieces of hardware roll through Tiananmen Square.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline 'China 'conscripts' monkeys and falcons'. Print Edition | Subscribe