Some 75 kinds of foreign birds have settled in Taiwan, threatening the nation's native species, the Council of Agriculture warned yesterday.
The council issued the warning after field research showed that 75 species of newcomers have become established and begun to reproduce.
The foreign birds come mostly from the Philippines, China and India. They comprise almost half the number of the nation's native bird species, which number 154.
"Some people may think that more birds means our ecology has improved, but the invasion of foreign birds is dangerous because these smuggled birds have not been quarantined. They could bring in diseases and eat food needed by local species," council researcher Fan Meng-wen (范孟雯) told a press conference.
Fan said the foreign birds were smuggled into Taiwan to be sold as pets. After Taiwanese bought them at high prices, some abandoned the birds while others set the birds free in Buddhist rituals.
It is believed that releasing captured animals -- usually birds and fish -- earns merit and can bring good fortune.
The report said 24 percent of the nation's religious groups hold fang sheng (放生, release life) rituals, and an estimated 200 million captured animals are released each year.