Activists urge humane removal of invasive species

03/03/2021 07:57 PM
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CNA photo March 3, 2021
CNA photo March 3, 2021

Taipei, March 3 (CNA) Animal rights activists urged the government Wednesday to devise rules to make sure that invasive species are removed in a proper and humane way, following several reports of cases involving abuses of those animals.

The lives of invasive species also matter, and there should be both standard operating procedures for their removal and stricter control of their imports to begin with, said the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST).

Uncoordinated efforts by local governments, which often lean on convenient solutions such as paying rewards to anyone who captures an invasive species, are neither effective nor responsible, said EAST deputy head Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏).

Among problematic cases recently has been the handling of green iguanas, an invasive species whose overpopulation has led to widespread and unregulated hunting since last year, the group said.

The creature, also known as the American iguana, has been seen captured, tied and killed in extreme and inhumane ways, and videos showing how to use slingshots and firecrackers to abuse them have gone viral on the internet, it said.

No authority has taken the responsibility to stop such behavior, EAST said, demanding that the Council of Agriculture better educate the public and curb illegal breeding or even consumption of the iguana.

Forestry Bureau Conservation Division Director Lo Yu-chuan (羅尤娟) said rules on how to humanely remove the species are in place for specialized personnel but acknowledged they have not been made public.

Lo said the government will consider making that information public and will promote humane removal in the future, while also discussing with local governments whether the use of rewards is proper in such scenarios.

According to the COA, about 15,000 iguanas were removed and killed last year, including 8,570 in Pingtung County in southern Taiwan.

Primarily herbivores, the iguanas are considered a problem because they eat agricultural crops and crowd out smaller, native lizard species. In addition, their burrows, often built near water sources, can damage irrigation canals, affecting farmers' livelihoods.

Lo said the government has banned the imports of green iguanas since 2015 and that it has been vigilant in regulating imports of animals that can threaten local ecological system.

Cheng Chu-ching (鄭祝菁), animal protection section chief of the COA, said the agency will collect evidence to determine if there have been any violations of animal welfare and warned that violators could face imprisonment.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)

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