May 8, 2009

Swallow named S. Korean national treasure

Naming South Korea's swallows a national treasure will highlight their decline and help protect habitat, the nation's Cultural Heritage Administration said.

The swallow, once a familiar site in South Korean life, has nearly disappeared in many areas of the country, said Lee In-kyu, a heritage spokesman.

The swallow in Korean classical literature is described as a messenger that brings news of a person's reward for good deeds and news of punishment for bad deeds, The Chosun IIbo reported Friday.

South Korea's swallow population dropped from 37 birds for every 250 acres in 2000 to 21 birds in 2008, the National Institute of Biological Resources said.

The decline has been especially apparent in urban areas where thatch-roofed houses, favored by nesting swallows, have all but disappeared. Agrichemicals and insecticides also have dramatically diminished insect populations favored by the swallows, Lee said.