Huang Ming-ying, a prosecutor from the Ministry of Justice’s Tainan City Investigation Bureau, was in the middle of investigating a case in June when he discovered that the suspect under investigation was keeping an owl as a pet.
It transpired that the owl in question was a collared scops owl, which is categorized as a class-2 rare and valuable species under the Wildlife Conservation Act. Huang decided to expand the scope of the investigation. During a search in July, five radiated tortoises were also found in the suspect’s possession. According to prosecutors, the asking price for a radiated tortoise is NT$10,000, resulting from its status as a class-1 protected exotic species. The discovery led prosecutors to believe that the suspect was engaged in illegal private wild animal trade and may also be involved in smuggling.
The owl’s discovery led prosecutors to widen their investigation to individuals higher up the food chain, and a large-scale search in northern, central and southern Taiwan ensued. As of this month, a total of 64 animals of 19 protected species have been found, including radiated tortoises, Bali mynas, russet sparrows and yellow-naped and yellow-headed Amazon parrots, all of which are class-1 protected endangered species. The case is still ongoing and prosecutors say the scope of the illegal wildlife trading network keeps expanding as the investigation rolls on.
Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Justice’s Tainan City Investigation Bureau 照片：台南市法務部市調查處提供
The protected animals discovered during the search are temporarily being cared for by wildlife conservation groups and regional animal shelters. Prosecutors say that to meet the needs of wildlife buyers, sellers collude with illegal poaching groups to set bird nets and hunting equipment within protected areas to trap wild animals, and sellers sacrifice countless animal lives to provide just one live specimen for trading in the underground market.
Furthermore, due to owners’ unfamiliarity with wild animals’ living habits, many die while in captivity. Prosecutors appealed to the public to love wild animals without harming them and not to inadvertently kill a wild animal by purchasing one.
(Liberty Times, translated by Edward Jones)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons 照片：維基共享資源
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