The Taipei City Animal Protection Office was recently informed by the Taiwan Forestry Bureau that someone had “rehabilitated” — or returned into the wild — a poisonous cobra along the Tamsui River (淡水河) between Chongyang Bridge (重陽橋) and the nearby freeway in Shilin District (士林).
Although the area is relatively removed from residential zones, it is a favored route for cyclists and many people bike along that particular stretch of river on holidays or at night and the result could be “unimaginable” if someone were to encounter a venomous snake there, the office said.
Office director Yen I-feng (嚴一峰) said yesterday that the government facility had received the report from the bureau on July 12 and had dispatched personnel to search the surrounding area the next day.
“Our personnel found no signs of the snake, nor any signs that anyone had been in the area,” Yen said, adding that the office had sent a team again on Tuesday, which also yielded no results.
Snake “rehabilitation” is usually carried out for religious motives and involves more than one or two snakes, Yen said, adding that the office had not received any reports of snake sightings in the area.
It is rare for the city government to catch snakes along river banks and even though the habitat provides several hiding spots, snakes would not find it easy living without frogs or rodents as a food source.
The complaint was mailed to Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) and was subsequently passed on to the bureau, which then transferred the case to the Taipei City Animal Protection Office, Yen said, adding that the office was not certain about the source of information.
“We don’t think people have a need to be overly concerned,” Yen said.
Despite reassurances, Yen said that to ensure public safety, the office had made the stretch of road a priority for patrols, adding that the office had alerted the Taipei City Fire Station and the Hydraulic Engineering Office to the situation.
Yen also added that cobras were a protected species and that owners of the dangerous reptiles could face imprisonment for a term ranging from six months to five years, adding that unauthorized rehabilitation of any animals was in violation of the Wildlife Protection Act (野生動物保育法).
Such an offense is punishable with a fine of between NT$50,000 (US$1,670) to NT$250,000, Yen said, adding that if the unauthorized rehabilitation risks damaging the ecology, then the fine would be raised to between NT$500,000 and NT$2.5 million.