Taipei, More than 20 protected species kept by private individuals or institutions are being mistreated, local animal protection groups said Tuesday, accusing the government of being negligent about the issue and failing to implement the law.
"There is no proper law enforcement when it comes to the management of protected wildlife," said Chen Yumin deputy director of the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), which, along with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, showed cases of possible animal abuse discovered during a recent survey.
In video footage obtained by the groups, wild animals including Asian black bears, gibbons, orangutans and Bengal tigers are seen in small cages, displaying "stereotypical distressed behavior."
Such behavior, referring to repetitive actions with no obvious goal or function such as pacing back and forth, suggests that the animals are under extreme stress, Chen pointed out.
While the groups urged the government nine years ago to take the issue seriously, the survey results show 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 being punished by the authorities.
Under Taiwan's Wildlife Conservation Act, those who already possessed their animals before 1989, when the law was amended to address serious wildlife smuggling problems in Taiwan, can continue to raise them, "but no breeding shall be allowed except for academic research or educational purposes and with the approval of the authorities."
While the act also stipulates that the animals must be cared for with attention given to safety and sanitation, as well as proper enclosures and facilities, the video shows that neither the owners of the animals nor the authorities take the law seriously, Chen said. The groups blasted the government for its negligence, as data kept by the central and local authorities show a huge difference in terms of the number of protected species held in captivity, as well as their current situation.
For instance, according to the Forestry Bureau, such animals falling in the carnivore and primate orders islandwide are 103 and 328, respectively, while the total figure from local governments is 78 and 281, the groups said.
There is no standard supervision of the animals' living conditions, either, as many local government inspectors only call the animal keepers for that information without carrying out proper inspections, Chen said.
In response, the Forestry Bureau said it will complete a related investigation within a month and keep an uptodate record of the wellbeing of the animals.
Meanwhile, the groups also 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 by private entities.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel