2005-10-20 / Taiwan News, Contributing Writer / By Yang Jie
Wildlife conservation has gained increasing prominence and support in recent decades as the overall concern for animals has grown and the popularity of having pets has focused attention on the plight of animal species around the globe.
Taiwan is reputed to have a spotty record when it comes to conservation. But that has changed because people here are finally understanding that ecology and wildlife conservation are related to our quality of life as assets of the land we all belong to, said Dr. Lee Ching-Lung head of the Council of Agriculture, the government agency responsible for wildlife preservation.
A rare breed of the falcon species is pictured above. The diversity of species is the result of evolution over time and is irreplaceable in the ecosystem./Central News Agency
The growing emphasis on wildlife conservation is evident by the number of international protocols supporting the conservation of species diversity that have been signed in recent decades, according to Dr. Lee.
From the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and CITES, signed by leading U.N. member countries in 1973, to the Convention on Biological Diversity, or CBD, signed by countries of the world at the Earth Summit held in Brazil in 1992, they all signify that maintaining an ecological balance is the common goal of all men.
Taiwan's government thus empowered the COA to draw up a draft Wildlife Conservation Act with reference to the conditions and needs at home and abroad for conserving wildlife resources. The Act, first promulgated and implemented on June 23, 1989 after review by the Legislative Yuan, was largely amended in 1994.
A second amendment was made to Section 2 of the Act in April 2002. In February 2004, some sections of the Act were added or amended following the implementation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The legal basis for wildlife conservation in Taiwan clearly exists.
Lee maintained that the diversity of species is the result of evolution over time and is irreplaceable in the ecosystem. If humans overdevelop or overdeploy wildlife and its habitats, the number of species will drop dramatically and the ecological and environmental balance will be spoiled by our exploitation of these resources. Once that happens, the survival and sustainability of all species within the ecosystem, including humans, will be endangered.
Therefore, Lee says, Taiwan must reinforce wildlife conservation and habitat maintenance in accordance with the Wildlife Conservation Act to ensure and maintain an environment that supports species diversity.
More knowledge needed
Just gaining knowledge of existing species is a huge task. According to Lee, even though surveys show that there are some 25 million species on earth, only 1.15 million, or less than 5 percent, have been recorded by scientists, suggesting that there is still much room for research. Although insects have the most species among all known wildlife, more abundant information now exists on vertebrates like mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and freshwater fish.
The term "wildlife" refers to undomesticated animals, Lee explained. In the Wildlife Conservation Act, wildlife generally refers to "mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, insects and other species living in their habitats." Therefore, animals bred in a natural environment should be considered wildlife in a broad sense.
According to Lee, the targets of the wildlife conservation work and policies of the COA include: management and maintenance of wildlife habitats; implementation of a wildlife database; improvement of species identification technologies; investigation and seizure of wildlife smuggling; education of wildlife conservation specialists; wildlife conservation education for the public; and international cooperation.
Conservation efforts in Taiwan have finally borne fruit. By June 2005, for example, over 700,000 entries of biological survey data have been produced in the Taiwan Biological Resources Database. These data covering information about the habitat, distribution and characteristics of wildlife serve as references for drawing up wildlife conservation plans.
The Forest and Nature Conservation Squad formed on July 1, 2004, responsible for enforcing the Wildlife Conservation Act, has cracked 73 cases of wildlife smuggling, while the wildlife asylum has accommodated 2,237 protected animals.
In terms of training wildlife investigators and promoting environmental education, the government has organized 34 specialized training programs and held 106 presentations on wildlife conservation and the environment for the public, Lee said.
Apart from instilling an appreciation for the concept of wildlife conservation here, these endeavors have also successfully promoted the growth of some species and earned acclaim both at home and abroad.
Wildlife conservation is a global trend and Taiwan is determined to cooperate with the global community in conservation efforts, Lee said.
Through a commitment to enforcing related laws, regulations and policies dealing with wildlife conservation through the combined efforts of the government and the public, Taiwan hopes to preserve its biological resources in order to let species proliferate and survive in harmony and stability, Lee added.
In addition to enforcing wildlife conservation, the COA also promotes the concept of biodiversity. Biodiversity is a synonym for the variety of life on earth, and includes animals, plants and creatures of different species, and the diversified ecosystems in which they live.
These living things have complex, interdependent and delicate relations. The rice, chicken, duck, fish, meat, vegetables and fruit we consume every day; the cotton, linen and wool with which clothes are made; the table, chair, bed and cupboard in our home; the pencil and paper we use for reading or in the office; and even the medication we take when we are ill; many of these are creatures and parts of ecosystems in nature. Hence, biodiversity is not only related to wildlife conservation but also inseparable from our daily lives.
Lee described the many benefits that ecological diversity brings to humans. Among them:
Raising the quality of life: Taiwan has a wide variety of foods, vegetables, flowers and medical plants, which are the foundation for developing new breeds and improving the living quality of the public.
Promoting tourism: The natural tourism resources offered by biodiversity allow us to develop the green or ecological tourism industry that brings business opportunities and provides a viable leisure and recreation alternative for local residents.
Improving health: The protected endangered species Taxus brevifolia in the United States has been proven to contain paclitaxel for fighting cancer. A similar substance has been discovered in the Taxus mairei of Taiwan. As Taxus mairei has been preserved, we are able to discover cancer fighting substances in nature that enhance human health.
Genetic engineering: The rise of biotechnology and genetic engineering has led to economic benefits from manipulating the diversity of genes. The promising future of both disciplines has thus marked out the importance of species diversity.
To prevent biodiversity from disappearing through human irresponsibility, residents can take action on their own to save it. The COA asks people not to consume, keep or free captive wildlife and wild plants; conserve resources (water, energy, oil, food etc); recycle and reuse resources; protect the natural environment and habitats; refrain from raising or abandoning pets of exotic species; reduce using exotic trees for greening the environment; and create ecologically sustainable communities. By doing so, we can create a happier and healthier environment to improve the quality of our lives and those of our children.