Swinhoe’s pheasants are becoming a more common sight in Nantou County’s forests because people are feeding them too much, officials from National Taiwan University’s College of Bio-resources and Agriculture said.
The birds are frequently the subjects of videos made by hikers wielding smartphones, with the footage proving popular on social media.
However, the phenomena underlying the animals’ behavior are far from innocuous, said the college’s Experimental Forestry Office, which is the managing authority of the Sitou Nature Education Area.
The area is a forestry reserve that stretches from Fenghuangshan (鳳凰山) to the Sitou Astronomical Observatory.
The area is popular among nature lovers and hikers, partly because of the scenery and partly because of the rare and beautiful pheasants, the office said.
Local wildlife, such as squirrels and the pheasants, are becoming used to humans, which is an undesirable result of frequent feeding by visitors, the office said.
If the pheasants and squirrels become dependent on humans, it weakens their ability to survive on their own and disrupts their function of propagating seeds, it said.
“Plant life, pheasants, squirrels and raptors make up a food chain. If inappropriate feeding of wildlife is not curbed, vegetation that depends on squirrels and pheasants would decrease,” it said.
“When peasants are not eating worms and insects, the threat they pose to trees goes up,” the office said.
“The potential harm to the natural environment is dire,” the office said.
Although the National Park Act (國家公園法) prohibits feeding wildlife or leaving food in the wild, the Sitou preserve is technically a “scenic area” and not subject to those rules, the office said.
The office called on the government to rectify the situation by legislative or executive action.
In the meantime, it has set up signs discouraging feeding animals, it said.
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