Taiwan Quick Take

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Wed, Jun 27, 2007 - Page 4

■ RESEARCH

Animal ICU lab set up

A new laboratory to study animals after they undergo gene transfer and cloning operations has been established by the staff of the Livestock Research Institute (LRI) under the Council of Agriculture, government sources said yesterday. The new lab in Tainan County -- named the Molecular Research Ranch for Gene-modified Animals -- serves as an "intensive care unit" for livestock or poultry that has been genetically modified in other labs, LRI researchers said. Animals undergoing genetic modification require intensive care to preserve the intended genetic expressions, as well as to protect them from disease, mutation, or contamination, they said, adding that most local livestock research labs lack such facilities. LRI will continue expanding the lab's equipment and refining its standard operating procedures to earn accreditation from the International Organization for Standardization, they said.

■ COMMUNICATIONS

Base station law planned

Tainan Mayor Hsu Tain-tsair (許添財) yesterday instructed city government officials to draft regulations requiring residents' approval before wireless network base stations can be set up in their neighborhoods. Although there is no clear evidence that electromagnetic waves are a health hazard, most people do not like to live in the vicinity of a cellphone base station or other types of transmission stations. Given increasing protests against such base stations, some entrepreneurs had tried to hide and disguise base stations set up in neighborhoods, triggering panic when they were discovered. To address these concerns, Hsu called for drafting the regulations -- applicable only in Tainan City -- to allow residents to decide. Hsu also called for a more efficient means of managing the establishment of base stations.

■ CONSERVATION

Whale shark sales banned

Sales of whale shark, the largest living fish species, will be banned starting today, an executive of the fishermen's association of Suao Township (蘇澳) in Ilan County said yesterday. The Council of Agriculture stipulated a catch quota of 30 whale sharks for this year. When that quota was reached in March, the council declared on March 27 that no further fishing would be allowed to target the giant fish -- known locally as the "Tofu shark" for its tender and white meat. It also demanded that the catches be sold within three months. The whale shark is not listed as an endangered species in Taiwan, but is listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) signed in 1973 in Washington to slow down species extinction. Out of respect for the international convention, Taiwan has set catch quotas to control the take of whale sharks.

■ RECREATION

Bike for the record

France-based mineral water firm Volvic is inviting the public to take part in a bike ride on July 21 aimed at promoting environmental protection and breaking a Guinness world record. Calling on the public to join the exercise, the company hopes to break the world record of 641 bikers riding at the same time for 3.5km in the Netherlands last year. The activity will start and end at the Tachia Riverside Park in Keelung. Participants who join the 16km ride will get a free T-shirt. They may also win other gifts offered by the organizer, including a trip to France.

■ ENVIRONMENT

Foreign lizards not welcome

Chiayi County agriculture officials yesterday issued an order to eliminate all brown anoles -- a lizard species native to Cuba and the Bahamas -- because they have been propagating so rapidly that they now pose a threat to indigenous species. Tseng Yung-hua (曾永華), head of the county's agriculture bureau, urged residents to report sightings of the lizard to the authorities so that action can be taken to catch them. Tseng said that results of an initial study showed that the brown anole probably carries parasites and that their presence could impact on the local environment. The brown anole, or Anolis sagrei, was first discovered in Chiayi County seven years ago. But large numbers of the lizards have been sighted in orchards, betel palm plantations and rural neighborhoods recently. An estimate by agricultural experts puts the number of brown anoles in Chiayi County at more than 10,000.

■ ENVIRONMENT

Al Gore visit postponed

Former US vice president Al Gore will not be able to make it to Taiwan this September to address the issue of global warming, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said yesterday. Tien, who invited Gore to visit Taiwan to promote awareness on global warming, told reporters yesterday that she received an e-mail from the Harry Walker Agency, which has the exclusive right to arrange Gore's speeches, saying that Gore had canceled all his scheduled events in the next six months. The visit to Taiwan had been postponed to next year, she added. Tien said the reason for the cancelation was that Gore was considering a presidential bid.