Sat, Jan 19, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Pesticide blamed for mass bird deaths

INVESTIGATION:Taitung agricultural researchers said someone might have illegally used insufficiently diluted carbofuran — some types of which were banned on Jan. 1

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Dead sparrows lie in a rice field in Taitung County’s Beinan Township on Monday.

Photo: CNA

A powerful pesticide is to blame for the death of an estimated 1,200 birds in Beinan Township (卑南), the Taitung County Animal Disease Control Center said on Wednesday.

The mass bird mortality, which occurred on Jan. 5 and 6, was first reported on Facebook by an organic farmer, who said that others in the area might be poisoning the birds.

The report sparked concern among local and national conservation groups, including the Taitung Wild Bird Society and the Taiwan Association for Falconry Culture and Raptor Conservation.

An examination found that rice in the stomachs of the birds contained high residual levels of carbofuran, one of the most toxic pesticides available on the market, which was ruled to be the cause of death, the center said in a statement.

A subtype of carbamate pesticides, carbofuran is most commonly used to control insects at newly planted rice or vegetable fields, the center said.

Officials did not rule out the possibility of intentional poisoning and the Seventh Special Police Corps was advised to investigate the incident, Taitung Department of Agriculture Director Hsu Jui-kui (許瑞貴) said.

The Council of Agriculture on Jan. 1 banned four types of carbofuran products due to concerns about their toxicity, the Taitung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station said.

“This office believes that a pesticide user or users have failed to apply the recommended dilution ratio on the label of all licensed carbofuran products, which led to the senseless deaths of the birds,” the station said.

Wu Chia-wen (吳嘉文), the officer in charge of the Seventh Special Police Corps in Taitung, confirmed that an investigation is ongoing, but added that local farmers interviewed by the unit had denied using the pesticide.

The Council of Agriculture had said the previous evening that 3 percent-concentration pellets are the only acceptable carbofuran product for use in rice paddies and farmers who use illegal pesticides could be fined up to NT$150,000.

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