Taipei Zoo criticized for nocturnal animals’ deaths

NIGHTTIME DEATHTRAP?:Taipei City Councilor Lee Ching-feng says 27 animals died after being moved because their exhibit was closed. The zoo says 12 died

By Kuo An-chia and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Thu, Jun 06, 2013 - Page 3

Taipei Zoo has become a deathtrap for nocturnal animals after more than a score died after a renovation project forced their relocation, a Taipei City councilor said on Tuesday.

Zoo statistics show that 12 nocturnal animals have died since the Nocturnal Animals exhibition area was closed in September last year so the site could be converted into an indoor tropical rainforest display. About 70 percent of them were rare or endangered species, such as Malayan porcupines, pygmy slow lorises, Siberian weasels and jungle cats, the statistics show.

According to the zoo’s Web site, the 118 inhabitants of the Nocturnal Animals exhibit were gradually moved to other exhibition halls in October, even though the NT$380 million (US$12.7 million) rainforest project is still in the bidding process. Construction of the new exhibition area is scheduled to be completed next year, according to the Web site.

However, Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City Councilor Lee Ching-feng (李慶鋒) said a review of documents shows that 27 animals have died.

The death toll represents a mortality rate of 21 percent, far higher than the overall death rate of 4.3 percent for the entire zoo and the fatality rate of 10 percent for nocturnal animals recorded before the relocation.

“Among the deceased animals were a Formosan gem-faced civet, a rare species endemic to Taiwan, and collared scops owl,” Lee said.

Lee said some of these animals died because of difficulties adjusting to their new environment, while others died as a result of negligent care by the zoo’s management.

“This construction project has turned the zoo into an animal graveyard and even victimized the last remaining Siberian weasel at the zoo,” Lee said.

“However, the zoo will simply purchase more animals, because it is trapped in a vicious circle [of buying animals and letting them die] that is not a good educational approach and does not set a good example for children,” Lee said.

Taipei Zoo spokesman Chao Ming-chieh (趙明杰) told reporters that only 12 animals died after the move.

“Nocturnal animals have a relatively short life span and it is natural that their death toll increases over time. Most of the animals, such as Malayan porcupines and white-bellied hedgehogs, died of old age, malignant tumors or hepatitis, while others, including Linnaeus’ two-toed sloth, died as a result of [improper] care from their mothers,” Chao said.

None died because of the relocation, Chao said.

Lee responded to Chao’s comments by saying the zoo should not try to shift the blame onto the mothers of dead animals, who could not speak for themselves.

The zoo operates in an opaque manner and refuses to let the public examine its hygiene standards and environment.

Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) said the zoo had always treated animals as toys and shirked responsibility for deaths.

“Since it is taxpayers’ money that funds the zoo’s operations, it is only right that the zoo opens its doors to private animal welfare organizations and wildlife specialists for evaluation and inspection,” Chen said.