Sun, Dec 29, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Spoonbill deaths force rethink

GROUNDSWELL So far, 66 endangered spoonbills have died, but moves are underway to ensure no more lives are put at risk because of failures in environmental management

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chiau Wen-yan (邱文彥), president of Wetlands Taiwan, told the Taipei Times that the recent spoonbill deaths exposed the necessity of rezoning the ecological reserve.

Chiau said that fish farms near Chihku Lagoon should be used as buffer zones to ensure sources of food for the endangered bird.

"However, fishermen deserve appropriate compensation for their cooperation," Chiau said.

Fishermen's opposition was made clear on Dec. 25, when 54 illegal stable fish nets were forced to be removed under an order from Tainan County Commissioner Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智) based on the Wildlife Conservation Law.

Only two fishermen reportedly agreed to work with Su without asking for compensation.

Meanwhile, to prevent the spread of disease, Su also demanded a long-term sanitation project on a 2,000-hectare area, part of which is the main habitat of the endangered bird.

Local authority mobilized hundreds of volunteer firemen, conservationists and local residents to wade through the chilly waters of the lagoon to collect bodies of dead fish and animals.

"What we need now is money as well as manpower," Lee Tuey-chih (李退之), director of Tainan County Government's Information Division, told the Taipei Times.

Lee said that local conservationists had been eager to know the real cause of deaths but comprehensive studies on that remained unavailable.

Moreover, officials of Tainan County Livestock Disease Control Center, requesting help from the COA, said that a lack of anti-C. botulinum serum resulted in a delay in rescuing sick spoonbills.

The COA waited until Thursday before it set up a national task force, which will seek international assistance and strengthen domestic ecological conservation, to tackle the botulism epidemic.

The establishment was pushed by legislators, bird watchers, wetlands protectors, ecological conservationists and environmentalists.

Through DPP Legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清), the COA contacted Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases last week. It is expected that eight bottles of anti-C. botulinum serum, which costs NT$150,000 per unit, will be shipped to the Tainan County Livestock Disease Control Center this week.

Yang Jiao-yen (楊嬌豔), assistant to Jao, told the Taipei Times that Shunji Kozaki (小崎俊司), a veterinary professor of Osaka Prefecture University, and Takeda Masato (竹田正人) -- who has dealt with recent botulism cases in birds -- will arrive in Taiwan this week to help manage the crisis.

Yang said that the institute had promised to purchase 50 bottles of the serum for Taiwan from a national research center in Lanzhou, China, in order to efficiently tackle the epidemic.

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