A “mercy” release is a religious act; many Buddhists and Taoists believe that releasing captured animals creates good karma, bringing good fortune.
However, an act that many think preserves animals’ lives can actually harm them and threatens ecological balance.
The animal most commonly released is birds. It is estimated that more than one million of them are bought at bird shops and other suppliers each year specifically to be released. Unfortunately, many die when they are released, unable to cope with life in the wild. Some animals – such as the Sabah grouper – do not even occur in the wild!
Other animals that are also ‘popular’ for this practice are turtles, fish and frogs; their dead bodies wash up in rivers in the days after auspicious release days such as Buddha’s Birthday or Vesak Day.
The animals released into the wild can do untold harm. One example is the release of frogs infected with the deadly Chytrid fungus which threatens Hong Kong’s indigenous frog population. Another is the red-eared slider which has virtually wiped-out local turtle species.
The SPCA is campaigning hard to stop so-called “mercy” releases. It is not kind and is not part of a coherent conservation process. It is also against the law carrying a maximum three year prison sentence and a HK$200,000 fine.