Tue, Nov 25, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Afflicted spoonbill sighted in Japan

TOXIN SCARE Recovering well after suffering from botulism, 13 other birds were also seen in Tainan's Chiku Township, delighting bird conservationists


Most of the black-faced spoonbills released from care earlier this year after suffering from botulism have been sighted in both Taiwan and Japan over the past month, the Wild Bird Federation Taiwan (WBFT) said yesterday.

Bird conservationists from around the region have been expecting the return of the endangered black-faced spoonbill from the north, including a number that had earlier been struck down by botulism in Taiwan.

As of yesterday, 14 of the 17 surviving black-faced spoonbills had been sighted by bird conservationists in Taiwan and Japan. Thirteen of the birds were seen in the Tsengwen River estuary in Chiku Township, Tainan County, over the past two months, while one was observed in Japan last week.

Starting from Dec. 9 last year, 90 black-faced spoonbills in Chiku had been struck down by botulism, of which 73 died.

After receiving medical treatment for a number of weeks, 15 of the spoonbills returned to Chiku in February. One month later, the two other spoonbills were released.

According to WBFT Secretary General Chiang Kuen-dar (江昆達), a spoonbill was observed on Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture on Thursday.

"The bird was released in March and it's in good shape now," said Chiang.

The 13 other spoonbills set free earlier this year were sighted by bird conservationists based in Tainan.

Based on the WBFT's analysis, Chiang said the sick birds had been recovering well after being released.

"Whether the botulism incident last year affected the bird population remains uncertain," Chiang said.

As of yesterday, 640 black-faced spoonbills had been seen in Chiku, according to the Tainan County Black-faced Spoonbill Conservation Society.

A record of 707 black-faced spoonbills was set in late November last year.

No scientific evidence had emerged to indicate there had been a sharp drop in the bird's numbers, and the issue could only be meaningfully discussed after a population survey in January, Chiang said.

Chiang said the survey would be jointly carried out by conservationists at a number of the bird's wintering sites, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Japan and Korea. The previous global survey conducted in January this year listed the total population of black-faced spoonbills at 1,069. But information relating to habitats on the east coast of China remained sketchy, Chiang said.

Officials from the Forestry Department's Resources Conservation Division said yesterday that the population of black-faced spoonbills was affected not only by the state of wintering sites in the south but also the state of breeding grounds in the north.

The Council of Agriculture has spent NT$40 million on protecting the bird. A set of emergency measures for rescuing endangered wildlife was drawn up by the council earlier this year.

A more comprehensive plan to save the endangered bird will be completed by the end of this year.

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