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Taiwan seeking to reduce ecological impact of alien bird

2016/05/26 16:54:15

African sacred ibises. (CNA file photo)

Taipei, May 26 (CNA) Taiwan is taking steps to deal with the problem of an introduced bird species that is causing an ecological disaster in the country, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said Thursday.

The first step is to obtain the opinions of experts and scholars, who will meet Friday in Taipei to discuss the issue of the growing number African sacred ibises in Taiwan and their impact on the country's ecology, the COA said.

Under the auspices of the COA and the Chinese Wild Bird Federation, specialists in ecological balance and wild birds will meet and brainstorm on how to deal with the problem, said Kuan Li-hao (管立豪), a division chief at the COA's Forestry Bureau.

Kuan said the ibis species, which is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, was first brought into Taiwan more than 30 years by a private zoo.

In 1984, some ibises were spotted in a wetland in Taipei, which indicated that they were breeding in the wild, Kuan said, speculating that the first birds had escaped from the zoo in Hsinchu County during a typhoon.

That year, the number of African sacred ibises recorded in Taiwan was in single digits, but now there are 1,100 in the wetlands stretching from northeast Taiwan to the west coast, he said.

The birds are also seen sometimes at waste water treatment plants, on manure heaps and in garbage dumps, Kuan said.

The problem is that the omnivorous Africa sacred ibis is competing with the indigenous little egret and cattle egret for food and breeding sites, he said, expressing fears that it will gradually drive out bird species in the rural areas of Taiwan.

The COA has been trying to control the ibis population by removing its eggs and destroying its nests, but has had limited success and therefore has invited scholars and experts in the field to brainstorm for an effective solution, Kuan said.

The African sacred ibis has been listed by the European Union as one of 100 invasive species, according to Kuan.

In Africa, the bird feeds on the eggs and nestlings of wild birds that breed in groups, while in France, it eats the eggs and fledglings of terns and cattle egrets, he said.

(By Yang Shu-min and Elizabeth Hsu)
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