A number of netizens yesterday responded to an online call to rally in front of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in Taipei this afternoon to protest against several development projects that are to threaten the endangered leopard cats of Miaoli County.
The call was initiated by the Taiwan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Taiwan SPCA) on Facebook.
The Taiwan SPCA said the endangered leopard cats — with a population estimated to be less than 500 in Taiwan — are facing a survival threat, because their important habitat in Miaoli’s Sanyi Township (三義) would likely be damaged by planned development projects, including a bypass road for Provincial Highway No. 13, a cemetery and a park, and the expansion of Yulon Motor Co’s plant in the area.
As an environmental impact assessment (EIA) meeting is scheduled to be held this afternoon at the EPA to review the bypass project, the group called for the public to help save the leopard cats by attending a “pass by” protest today, and also by writing letters to EPA Minister Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥) to express their opposition to the road development.
The term “pass by” is an allusion to a statement made by the Taipei City Police Department earlier this month when it said an unauthorized rally held by former gang leader Chang An-le (張安樂) in support of the cross-strait service trade agreement was legal, because the demonstrators had been merely “passing by.”
According to the Taiwan SPCA, the road would cut through the species’ most important habitat, causing the leopard cat population to be split in two in two separate areas. This would cause the cats’ natural reproduction to become even more difficult, because studies have shown that leopard cats do not like asphalt roads, so they seldom cross a road and when they do, they often get killed by vehicles.
The road project’s previous report to the EIA did not even mention the species and the county government only recently mentioned a plan to buy another piece of land for the cats to live in, the Taiwan SPCA said, but whether the cats will move to the new area is not known.
The organization added that the estimated cost of the 8km bypass is about NT$5.2 billion (US$175.2 million), which is more expensive than the average price per kilometer paid for the Sun Yat-sen Freeway (Freeway No. 1), but the road is actually unnecessary because traffic congestion only occurs on a few peak periods on weekends or holidays.
The EPA said it would allow only 20 representatives from both sides of the road construction project to participate in the EIA meeting this afternoon.