A coalition of wildlife conservation groups on Thursday called for greater national efforts to protect endangered species by helping them recover and regenerate, and to bolster enforcement of conservation and protection laws.
Most people in Taiwan would say that the nation has made great strides in its efforts to protect animals, wild and domesticated, in the three decades since the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) was promulgated on June 23, 1989, and they would be right.
However, there is so much that has been left undone and much more that needs to be done.
Much of the impetus for the act, and enforcement of it, came from international pressure, not from lawmakers or government bodies. For example, it was the European Commission declaring Taiwan to be an uncooperative nation in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and issuing it a “yellow card” on Oct. 1, 2015, that forced the government and the fisheries industry to take seriously the need to improve regulations.
Just as the passage of three fisheries acts and new enforcement regulations that took effect in January 2017 were not enough to convince the commission to retract the yellow card, passage of the wildlife act did not really change much on the ground when it came to ending poaching and trafficking of endangered species.
It took the US government invoking the Pelly Amendment in 1994 to impose a trade embargo on Taiwan because of the continued trade in rhino horns and tiger bones to force Taipei to toughen enforcement of the wildlife act and increase the penalties for contravening it. The Pelly-mandated embargo was lifted in 1995.
Since then, more reserves, wildlife refuges and habitats have been established, but endangered species’ populations in Taiwan continue to decline, largely due to human encroachment and loss of habitat propelled by the development-first mentality of many local governments and the Executive Yuan. Meanwhile, too many endemic and non-endemic wild animals are held by private individuals or institutions in abysmal conditions.
In early June, the Miaoli County Council rejected a bill to protect the endemic leopard cat that was drafted last year by the Miaoli County Government by a 25-9 vote out of concern that it might hinder development projects.
That led the Executive Yuan to order local authorities to consider the effect on leopard cat habitats when conducting environmental assessments.
A few days later, the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals held a news conference to highlight the plight of Asian black bears, gibbons, orangutans and Bengal tigers kept in captivity in the nation, and criticized the lack of supervision to ensure the humane treatment of these animals, despite stipulations in the wildlife act.
Its articles cover the conservation and preservation of wildlife, and penalties for hunting or killing wild animals or trading in them without approval, but it does not cover efforts to increase their numbers.
Conservation groups on Thursday also noted that the central government has been providing less money for wildlife conservation efforts annually since 1989, and much of the dwindling budget goes toward conducting censuses and surveys, highlighting its passive approach to conservation.
Taiwan is proud to use the Formosan bear and other native wildlife on postage stamps and tourism promotion efforts, but if it wants to maintain those populations, the government needs to provide greater legal protection and allocate more money, starting immediately.
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