More than 20 protected species kept by individuals or institutions are being mistreated, animal protection groups said on Tuesday, accusing the government of negligence and failing to enforce the law.
“There is no proper law enforcement when it comes to the management of protected wildlife,” said Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏), deputy director of the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan, which, along with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that possible cases of animal abuse were discovered through a survey.
In video footage obtained by the groups, wild animals, including Asian black bears, gibbons, orangutans and Bengal tigers, are shown in small cages, displaying “stereotypical distressed behavior.”
Such behavior, referring to repetitive actions with no obvious goal or function, such as pacing, suggests that the animals are under extreme stress, Chen said.
The groups nine years ago urged the government to take the issue seriously, but the survey shows that nothing has changed, she said.
Most of the animals have been held captive in the same environment for more than a decade, the groups said, adding that some of their owners even breed them without permission, but have not been punished.
Animals that were obtained prior to 1989, when the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) was amended to address serious wildlife smuggling problems, can continue to be kept, “but no breeding shall be allowed except for academic research or educational purposes and with the approval of the authorities,” the act says.
The video shows that neither owners nor the authorities take the law seriously, as its provisions say animals must be cared for, with attention given to safety and sanitation, and they must have proper enclosures and facilities, Chen said.
The government is negligent, as data kept by central and local authorities show a huge discrepancy in the number of protected animals being held in captivity, the group said.
For example, Forestry Bureau data show that 103 carnivores and 328 primates are in captivity nationwide, but local government data gives totals of 78 and 281 respectively, the groups said.
There is no proper supervision of living conditions, as many inspectors from local governments only call the owners to collect information and do not carry out proper inspections, Chen said.
The bureau said that it would complete an investigation within a month and keep an up-to-date record of the well-being of protected animals in captivity.
The groups have launched an online petition to demand further intervention from the government, including the establishment of a task force to conduct a thorough census of protected wild animals being kept privately.
The Chinese-language petition is available at: forms.gle/6eAo32UjPMpgBorZ9.
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