Wed, Nov 01, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Officials overwhelmed by wild animal cases

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan director Chen Yu-min, right, speaks at a news conference yesterday called by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Shu-fen, center, at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei to discuss wildlife policies.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

Only 39 officials are tasked with handling wild animal protection cases, which last year totaled 22,517, Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) said yesterday.

Chen presented the society’s findings at a news conference held by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

Of those cases, 13,120 involved working with dangerous animals, data compiled by the society showed.

Only 16 full-time officials are working at agricultural agencies nationwide tasked with work related to wildlife, Chen said.

The government continues to cut the budgets for wildlife work, she said, citing the Forestry Bureau’s budget, which was NT$117 million (US$3.88 million at the current exchange rate) last year, NT$103 million less than what it was in 2007.

Taipei as well as Miaoli, Pingtung, Penghu and Lienchiang counties have set up telephone hotlines to report incidents involving wild animals, while other municipalities put such lines through to the police, fire departments and other agencies, she said.

Chen called on the government to set up a professional agency to handle wildlife issues.

It is necessary to amend the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) to specify procedures about cure, shelter, rescue, release and mercy killing of wild animals, Lin said.

The Executive Yuan issued a statement in response, saying that it would prioritize the safety and rights of firefighters and others who respond to wildlife incidents.

Firefighters should continue to handle emergency cases, such as capturing aggressive bees and snakes, as well as any emergency after 10pm, while agricultural agencies should deal with less threatening cases, it said.

Though former premier Lin Chuan (林全) earlier this year said that the capture work can be returned to agricultural agencies within two years, Premier William Lai (賴清德) appeared unwilling to continue with the plan.

Asked to comment on the Cabinet’s response, National Association for Firefighters’ Rights president Yang Shih-wei (楊適瑋) said it was “abominable.”

Firefighters can accept a two-year transition period, but ultimately the work must be transferred to agricultural officials, Yang said.

“Money is really not the problem, considering the government offers firefighters a bonus of NT$4000 per capture,” he said, adding that the government should instead provide funding to agricultural agencies to help them recruit more personnel.

The issue should not evolve into a conflict between agricultural and firefighting agencies, Yang said.

The capture work could be outsourced to the private sector, as some companies have expressed interest in the business, he said.

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