A Taipei City councilor on Friday expressed concern over the number of fatalities at the Taipei Zoo Rescue Center, which is supposed to provide emergency handling, veterinary care, treatment and shelter for abandoned wild animals.
According to Taipei City Councilor Lee Ching-yuan (李慶元) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), from 2011 to last month, 213 animals at the center had died, an average of 5.07 deaths each month.
“So instead of a rescue center, it is actually a ‘death center’ for these animals. The high death rate is just unacceptable,” Lee said.
Lee added that the center’s shelter currently has 726 animals under its care, but 561 of these, or 76 percent, are various species of turtle, saying that the place should be renamed the “Turtle Shelter Center.”
The center was established in 1996 with funding and assistance from the Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau, in cooperation with the Taipei Zoo.
“The shelter receives more than NT$10 million [US$330,000] in funding a year, and cares for between 700 and 900 animals. Right now, it has 663 protected species animals there. Of the deaths there, 108 were turtles,” Lee said. “Quite an significant number of deaths were of class-one protected species, such as the Burmese star tortoise, which can cost NT$50,000, along with Chinese three-keeled turtle, orangutan and Formosan black bear.”
When a death occurs, there is no monitoring and review process because the center still operates as an ad-hoc, temporary set-up without reporting to any authority, so it is under sloppy, lax management, Lee said.
Responding to the criticism, Taipei Zoo director Jason Chin (金仕謙) said most of the deaths were non-native species of turtle smuggled into Taiwan over the past two decades.
“Wildlife traffickers feed the turtles a mishmash of food. When they arrive at the center, most turtles are in bad health. Some suffer from kidney infections and urinary tract infections, and have parasites, which lead to their deaths,” he said.
He said that to determine causes of death, zoo veterinarians have performed necropsies, using the information to improve the center’s conditions.
“We also carry out quarantine inspections to isolate infected groups or individuals, and so have lowered the fatality rate. For reporting animal deaths, the procedure is the same as for other animals in the zoo, but we will conduct reviews on the finer details of the procedure,” Chin said.
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