Sat, Aug 18, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Suspect in NT$4 million exotic bird theft arrested

RARE CATCH:The police are still looking for the mastermind, whom they said might have resorted to theft after a deal to buy the birds fell through

By Huang Chia-ling,Ko Yu-aho and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

The owner of a bird farm in Greater Kaohsiung on Thursday shows two of his parrots that were recently stolen.

Photo: Huang Chia-lin, Taipei Times

A man suspected of stealing 26 parrots worth NT$4 million (US$133,200) has been arrested, police said on Thursday, adding that they were only able to recover four of the birds and a fistful of feathers.

The owner of a bird farm in Greater Kaohsiung, surnamed Wang (王), reported on June 11 that two pairs of Major Mitchell’s cockatoos, five pairs of white-bellied caiques, three pairs of eclectus roratus, and a pair each of blue-fronted amazons, festive amazons and yellow-naped amazons had been stolen.

The birds had all been imported from the US, the 56 year-old Wang said, adding that the thieves could easily earn NT$2 million from selling the offspring of the 26 missing birds.

All of the birds had been picked for mating purposes, Wang said, with the market price for a pair of Major Mitchell’s cockatoos starting at NT$600,000.

The birds have to be sold in pairs, and the pair have to be raised together from a young age to increase the chances of successfully laying eggs, he added.

Major Mitchell’s cockatoos have a very low population worldwide. Because they are hard to inseminate artificially, their market price has skyrocketed, he said.

The difficulty of raising such birds has also made them the “dream bird” of many bird merchants, he added.

Wang said very few people in Taiwan know how to raise Major Mitchell’s cockatoos, which is why he was doubly relieved when the police returned a pair of the missing birds.

“I’m going to hide the birds away, because if I don’t find the rest, it would be like losing a brand-new Benz,” Wang said on Thursday after being informed by police that four parrots had been found.

An investigation team from the Cishan Police Precinct said they had questioned a 33-year-old man named Liu Chih-min (劉智民), who allegedly said he was hired and given NT$500,000 by a man surnamed Liao (廖) in May to scout out the bird farm, together with two accomplices named Hsu Kung-jui (許肱瑞) and Liu Wen-chuan (劉文權).

According to the police, Liu said that they used the typhoon in June as a cover to steal the birds and that he gave Liao all the stolen birds when they met in Changhua.

Liu said he only received NT$420,000 out of the promised NT$500,000, according to police.

The officers said they suspected that Liao tried to buy the parrots from Wang for NT$500,000, but the deal fell through because they could not agree on the price.

Liao then stole the birds not only as a revenge, but also to make a tidy profit, they said.

Police were still looking for Liao at press time last night.

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