Wed, Aug 08, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Halt funeral park to help protect cats, activists say

PROTECTION NEEDED:The protected leopard cats could be further endangered by construction of a funeral facilities park in Houlong, Miaoli County, activists say

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party legislators Tien Chiu-chin and Wu Yi-chen, and Miaoli Biological Society Chairman Hung Wei-feng, left to right, hold a press conference in Taipei yesterday urging the Miaoli County Government to stop construction of a cemetery that threatens the habitats of leopard cats and other wildlife.

Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times

Legislators, environmental protection groups and wildlife researchers yesterday called for a temporary halt in construction of a build-own-operate funeral facilities park in Miaoli County’s Houlong Township (後龍) initiated by the county government, saying it endangered protected leopard cats living in the area.

The funeral facilities park project — a 28-hectare park with a cemetery park, a cemetery tower, a crematorium and a funeral home near the hills in Houlong — was opened for public bidding in 2007 and the county government had signed a contract with the developer in the same year.

However, Democratic Progressive Party legislators Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻) and Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) told a press conference yesterday that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project, passed in 2008, was flawed and should be done again.

Wu said four protected species of birds were mentioned in the ecological investigation of the project’s EIA report, while the more endangered species — the leopard cat, or Prionailurus bengalensis chinensis, which inhabit the area — was entirely left out without any assessment of the project’s possible negative impact on the species.

The Council of Agriculture had authorized National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST) to conduct ecological research in the low-elevation mountains of the area in 2005, and has already observed leopard cats, Tien said.

“The county government should have known about the endangered species [in the area] by the time it submitted the EIA report in 2008, but failed to mention it,” she said.

Showing several photographs of the cats taken by auto-detection cameras in the hillsides of Miaoli County, Chen Mei-ting (陳美汀), a researcher at NPUST’s Graduate Institute of Bioresources who specializes on the leopard cat, said that although records showed the species inhabits four counties, the habitat in Miaoli seems to have the most stable population.

The leopard inhabits low-elevation mountains, where the environment is often damaged by manmade infrastructure, Chen said, adding that the cats’ habitats in Maoli had already been sliced into many small areas isolated from one another.

“It is difficult to designate the area as a conservation area because it’s on private land,” said Kuan Li-hao (管立豪), director of the Forestry Bureau’s conservation division.

He added that the bureau had made efforts to designate nearby national forestland as protected areas for the conservation of the species.

The bureau has also filed paperwork to the local government and the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), suggesting a temporary halt in construction, he added.

Yen Hsu-ming (顏旭明), a section chief at the EPA’s department of comprehensive planning, said that the agency does not have the authority to order the Miaoli County Government to halt construction, but it would file a request that the local government clarify whether there were flaws in the EIA process.

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