Since its establishment in 2001, IFAW’s Beijing Raptor Rescue Center (BRRC), located on the campus of Beijing Normal University, has rescued 4,229 birds of prey from more than 30 species, including hawks, eagles, owls and vultures.

More than 55 percent of the birds are released back into the wild after rehabilitation.

Two recent patients in particular caught our eye for video purposes. Thanks to the Phantom camera, we recorded the world’s fastest bird, the Peregrine falcon, in super slow motion. We were also able to see the eagle-owl below, one of the world’s largest owls, spreading its wings more than four feet wide and taking off from its perch.

Those very flight skills need to be tested and evaluated before they are released back into the wild.

There are many reasons for the raptor patients to be admitted into the BRRC. The majority of them are victims of illegal trade, confiscated by law enforcement agencies and rescued by private citizens from wildlife markets and illegal captivity.

Another major cause of injuries to raptors is loss of prey and degradation of habitat. Many of the birds that come into the center are emaciated, dehydrated and some have sustained injuries from ingestion of rat poison and bodily wounds.

In addition to providing the best care and rehabilitation to the raptors, the BRRC has also positively influenced government policy and raised awareness about wildlife conservation.

A school visit to BRRC inspired a young boy and his classmates to form a charity “Care for the Birds”—selling hand-made bracelets to raise funds for raptor rescue and rehabilitation.

Based on data from BRRC, Beijing established the first ever compensation scheme for poultry farmers impacted by conflicts with birds of prey.

A young man rescued four goshawks literally from the butcher’s knife at a wildlife market in Hebei and sent them to BRRC. When the plight of these goshawks was aired on TV, a Minister of China’s Public Security Bureau dispatched police forces to crack down on the illegal market.

Watching a bird who gains its wings back soar into the sky again always exhilarates me, giving me a sense of strength, confidence and freedom.

Every raptor that comes into BRRC has a story. I am glad that more than half of their stories now have happy endings.

(This article originally appeared on IFAW. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

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