Sun, Oct 16, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Coast Guard thwarts smuggling plot

BYE-BYE BIRDIES Amid fears of avian flu spreading to Taiwan, officials discovered -- and will destroy -- more than 1,500 birds and other animals on a ship from Fujian

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) yesterday intercepted a Panama-registered cargo ship carrying more than 1,500 smuggled birds and other animals from China as it entered Taichung Harbor.

Coast Guard officials wore full protective gear when they boarded the ship anchored at wharf No. 22 in Taichung Harbor, in light of recent reports of the spread of avian flu throughout Asia and Europe. TV footage showed workers unloading birds from the ship.

"The Panama-registered ship Da Ji Lun attempted to smuggle several species of birds from Fujian Province, some of which initially came from Southeast Asia -- an area affected by avian flu," the Coast Guard said in a press release yesterday.

"More than 1,500 birds, including thrushes, Indian grackles, canaries and others -- as well as a number of animals such as mice and turtles -- were brought in," the statement said.

The Coast Guard said the species carried by the smugglers were potential carriers of avian flu.

"The birds and other animals would have gone to market if investigators had not uncovered the smuggling operation," the statement said.

The birds and animals will be destroyed soon.

The Coast Guard said it learned in May that the Da Ji Lun was attempting to smuggle a large number of birds from China to Taiwan, and started to track the ship.

Several days ago the ship left Fujian Province. It made a detour to Okinawa and entered Taichung Harbor yesterday morning.

A Chinese sailor named Chen Xi-tan (陳曦坦) admitted that he had smuggled the animals on board, and the Coast Guard is probing whether other staff also played a role in the operation.

In August, the Coast Guard intercepted a Taiwanese fishing boat carrying more than 4,500 birds from China at a fishing harbor in Kaoshiung.

The Taiwan government is concerned that rampant smuggling from China may trigger an outbreak of bird flu or other diseases in Taiwan.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has ordered the government to conduct strict surveillance and interdiction operations in the area, focusing especially on illegally imported animals and products. He said the government should learn lessons from dealing with the SARS outbreak in 2003, and take effective preventive action.

The Department of Health has warned that there is a serious risk of bird flu breaking out in Taiwan between January and March next year, and a US health agency has predicted as many as 14,000 Taiwanese deaths in the event of an outbreak.

Scientists worry that the avian-flu virus may mutate into a form that is capable of human-to-human transmission, resulting in a global pandemic that could leave millions dead worldwide.

This story has been viewed 3835 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top