Monday, November 28, 2011

Protected Hawk Owl trapped in illegal net

Bird trapped in a mist net. This one was already dead. We were able to rescue a few others.

Today's Taipei Times reports a protected Brown Hawk Owl Ninox scutulata was on rescued from an illegal bird net set up in the forests in Miaoli County’s Manapan Mountain (馬那邦山) area on Friday and sent to the Endemic Species Research Institute in Nantou County for emergency care.

Finally something about the rampant trapping of wild birds on Taiwan makes it into the press.

While the Brown Hawk Owl is protected under Taiwan's Wildlife Conservation Act the species isn't listed as threatened internationally on the IUCN's Red List of threatened species. However, locally on Taiwan the threat to the Brown Hawk Owl is such that it is listed as protected. The article goes on to say that two Mountain Scops Owls Otus spilocephalus and two Taiwan Hwamei Garrulax taewanus [Taiwan Hwamei is listed as 'Near Threatened' on the IUCN Red List] and other wild birds as also being found in the net which measured 200m-by-10m. The article also says that among the birds caught, only the Brown Hawk Owl was still alive when discovered by Forestry Bureau patrol officers.

The article then goes on to say, "the bureau said many people set up bird nets in mountainous areas to catch pigeons for ransom before the pigeon-racing season, but they often kill many wild birds in the process."

"The Hsinchu Forest District Office said that according to Article 19 of the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法), it is illegal to set up nets or traps to capture wild animals and the capture or killing of protected species could result in a fine of NT$200,000 (US$6,570) to NT$1 million and a maximum sentence of five years in jail."

The article then ends by saying "The office said it would continue to crack down on illegal nets and traps in the area to protect the safety of wild animals in their habitat."

All very good claiming that it is illegal to trap wild animals but what's being done about it. The trapping of wild birds is rampant and takes place all over Taiwan. It's not hidden out of sight. It happens openly. Just take a trip on a TRA train down the island and you'll see the nets at regular intervals in rice fields, in fruit orchards, in vegetable gardens and even when there appears to be no apparent reason for placing a net there. This is taking place openly in just about every village across the island. Birds of all species are exterminated to protect produce. It doesn't matter if the species caught don't even eat what is being protected. All birds that fly into these invisible nets are destined to die a slow lingering death.

It's not just the farmers that net birds. You get the trappers that trap racing pigeons and then hold them for ransom. But countless wild birds also get caught in these nets and just get left to die. Others might be rescued and sold for release to religious groups. Birds being trapped for release by religious groups is big business in Taiwan. But we are told about 60% of these birds don't live to be released. They die.

Birds are also caught for the cage bird trade. About three years ago the protected status of many wild birds was removed and many endemic bird species can now be openly caught and sold. Just visit the local bird store. Each year in Taiwan countless wild birds fall victim to trapping. It is really time that something is done but don't count on it. Just like all the illegal trawling along the coast in full view of the coast guard. Forget the threat it poses to Taiwan's critically endangered pink dolphins. I hope we can hold the Hsinchu Forest District Office to their word that they are going to crack down on trapping. I'm sure if they put their mind to it they could bust several trappers in a morning. What's the bet that a month from now they've done nothing?

Mist net set to supposedly protect crops but such nets are indiscriminate in what they catch.