Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Token pledges on Earth Day- Ma's Road ?

Today's Taipei Times's editorial is well worth a read. The editorial titled, Token pledges on Earth Day, pretty much sums up environmental concerns over the path that president-elect Ma Ying-jeou seems to be following.

Hushan Update

The Hushan Reservoir Public Hearing took place on Saturday April 26 in Douliou. We will be posting information on the hearing soon.

Fairy Pitta are still arriving in the Hushan-Huben area for the breeding season. Numbers in areas close to but outside the actual dam construction area appear to be lower this season but it is still too early to be certain. We will only be able to confirm this in about a month once the census is complete and figures can be compared to previous years. Areas away from the construction area appear to be showing good numbers.

The first Fairy Pitta banding capture took place yesterday. A male bird was netted on a research site fairly close to the construction area. The pitta was measured and banded before being released.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hushan Conservation Measures Public Hearing This Saturday – Public Invited To “Participate”

By C.M.

The official Public Hearing on the Hushan Reservoir Ecological Conservation Measures will be held at 9am this Saturday (April 26, 2008) in Douliou (Touliu) Town Hall (38 Fuwen Road 府文路, Douliou City, Yunlin County, map in Chinese). This follows a preparatory hearing held last month where stakeholders met for a test run and to thrash out details such as the main focus of the discussion and the level of transparency and detail that was expected of the reservoir developer (the Central Region Water Resources Office (CRWRO)*) and Taiwan Endemic Species Research Insitute (TESRI ), the body commissioned to oversee and co-implement the Conservation Measures.

The official purpose of the meeting is to explain the current status of the Hushan Reservoir Ecological Conservation Measures, the design and implementation of which were one of the conditions upon which the project was approved. Environmental groups, experts, academics and local community representatives are free to attend, or “participate” as the public notice calls it, although public explanation meetings and hearings for EIAs in Taiwan usually allow only a very passive form of participation by the public, something better described as consultation of the public and the provision of an opportunity to comment, but not to directly influence decision-making.

Judith Petts, editor of the Handbook of Environmental Impact Assessment, describes some of the major differences between consultation and participation in EIA:

“Participation is a process of engagement, where people are enlisted into the decision process to contribute to it… Participation requires that those initiating the process are open to the potential need for change and are prepared to work with different interests to develop plans or to amend or even drop existing proposals…Consultation refers to the process of asking for information and comments about proposals...[and] often focuses more on the need of an authority or developer to consult other bodies and named individuals than the broader public. It is the top-down strategy, where the proponent or authority remains firmly in control and, in the public context, is mainly concerned with passing on information. It is often a one-way process…” (Petts, 1999).

Members of the public and environmental groups who attended the preparatory meeting in March expressed concern at the omissions in both the original EIA for the dam project (such as the failure to consider ecological impacts upstream of the dam), the inadequacy and poor planning of the Conservation Measures, and the risk posed by the project to the ecosystems of the Hushan area, including You-cing Valley.

Some dam proponents responded to the latter with the argument that the question of whether or not to build the dam and flood the valley had already been addressed during the EIA process and that it was too late to discuss the uniqueness and value of an intact You-cing Valley, and suggested that the hearing should focus on the Conservation Measures, which mainly involve capturing and translocating some plants and animals to a “restoration site” outside of the reservoir boundaries.

This debate over the focus of the up-coming meeting reflects the fact that project opponents feel that an inadequate and insufficiently participatory EIA for the Hushan Reservoir project left too many questions unanswered and allowed too little real participation in decision-making, leaving them no option but to continue to voice their concerns at this stage, with the project now already underway.

*-The Central Region Water Resources Office, Water Resources Agency, Ministry of Economic Affairs.


Petts, Judith. 1999. Public Participation and EIA. In: J. Petts (ed.) Handbook of Environmental Impact Assessment (Vol. 1). Blackwell Science, pp. 145-177.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fairy Pitta wintering area mystery continues

The Fairy Pitta wintering area mystery continues. Dr [Scott] Lin Reuy-shing of the Taiwan Endemic Research Institute (TESRI) has recently returned from a research trip to Sarawak, Borneo. No Fairy Pitta were seen or heard on the trip. He was able to follow up on the November 2007 Fairy Pitta sighting made by a Mr. Yeo in the area of the Matang Wildlife Centre. He was also able to study habitat on Sarawak.

The location of the Fairy Pitta's wintering area continues to elude us. It has long presumed to be the island of Borneo but that is somewhat of an educated guess. There have been a handful of confirmed winter Fairy Pitta sightings from Borneo so it would appear that at least some Fairy Pitta are present during winter.

Also see:
Search for the Fairy Pitta wintering area

Australia's first Fairy Pitta and a winter sighting on Borneo

Monday, April 14, 2008

Nestling Diet, Nest Site Selection and Nest Success of the Fairy Pitta in Taiwan

A recent doctoral dissertation on Nestling Diet, Nest Site Selection and Nest Success of the Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha) in Taiwan by R.S. Lin.

*Note:- Introductory note of the dissertation is in Chinese but the actual paper follows in English.

Also see:
Recently Published Papers on the Fairy Pitta

Sunday, April 13, 2008

They're Back !

Fairy Pitta:-courtesy of Richard Yu.

Yes, they're back ! The first Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha) of the season was heard calling yesterday afternoon in the forests outside Huben Village. Dr. [Scott] Lin Reuy-shing and his team from the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute (TESRI) are ready for this seasons research program. Joining this year's effort for the season will be Sylvester Karimi (Nairobi Museum, Kenya). We extend a warm welcome to Sylvester and look forward to working with him. In May Korean Fairy Pitta researcher, Eun-Mi Kim of the Jeju Wildlife Research Center will be joining the team for about a week as part of the cooperation effort between Taiwan and Korean based Fairy Pitta researchers.

In addition, Wild Bird Society of Yunlin will be supporting the research effort and Mark Wilkie of Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association will be coordinating international involvement in conservation efforts and assisting in the documentation and recording of events this season.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pigs of God: Contest of Cruelty

Taiwan National Coalition Against the Hushan Dam member Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) together with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) are hosting a campaign to end the inhumane 'Pigs of God' contest which causes extreme suffering. Pigs are confined and force fed for up to two years, reaching six times their normal weight. Most cannot walk or stand up and have to be hauled to slaughter by up to twenty men. The pigs are slaughtered in public while fully conscious.

We are delighted to let you know that WSPA's ‘Pigs of God’ campaign is making fantastic progress.

Virtual Success
To date, people from 60 different countries have shown their support by adding a flower to our virtual pig. These flower signatures, including yours, have already made a difference.

Flowers in action
In November, the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) presented a life-size pig made of flowers and candy to Taiwan’s San Shia Master Temple in an appeal to end its cruel Pigs of God contest (see picture above).

The event generated further support for the online petition at

Government shows compassion
After pressure from WSPA and member societies, the Taiwanese government has shown a willingness to be compassionate by strengthening the Animal Protection Act in 2007 and pledging to ban live bird markets from April 2008.

Let’s keep up the pressure!

Also see:
Peaceful protest calls for end to cruel contest
Pig that weighs more than a car in cruel contest
WSPA succeeds in changing Animal Protection law
Animal protection breakthrough in Taiwan
Campaign to stop pig cruelty in Taiwan
Undercover film reveals shocking pig cruelty in Taiwan

Friday, April 11, 2008

Planting trees to off-set emissions isn't going to do it

Land being reclaimed at the Formosa Plastics Plant to use for planting trees. The area being destroyed through the reclamation is valuable humpback dolphin habitat.

In today's Taipei Times Lee Ken-cheng*, director of Mercy on the Earth, Taiwan argues that there is not enough land to off-set emissions.

Lee notes how state-owned firms have been falling over themselves in their search for land to plant trees. He makes the point that forestation projects such as the 60,000-hectare forestation project proposed by President-elect, Ma Ying-jeou, would not really be effective in reducing carbon emissions. He tells how a 60,000-hectare forestation plan would be able to absorb 1 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year. This would not be able to offset even a tenth of the FPG steel refinery's carbon output.

Environmentalists see the benefits of reforestation but planting trees doesn't address the cause of high emissions. Emission levels need to be brought down. Trees should be planted to reforest areas that were previously forest. Why reclaim land from a valuable marine environment and home to a highly endangered species to plant trees to combat emissions? Reforestation should be done out of a desire to restore forests and their valuable ecosystems not as a green-washing tool to hide emissions and create the incorrect impression that something is being done.

*Lee Ken-cheng was a teacher in Kaohsiung for 17 years. He is the Executive Director of Mercy on the Earth, Taiwan and a former appointee to the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Second Training Course for Volunteer Land-based Dolphin Observers and Interpretation Staff

Announcement: MFCU accepting applications for Second Training Course for Volunteer Land-based Dolphin Observers and Interpretation Staff.

The Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union (MFCU), comprised of seven leading non-profit environmental and research organizations, recently announced the opening two sessions of its annual training program to promote awareness of the plight of Taiwan’s highly endangered eastern Taiwan Strait population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis). The dolphins inhabit the estuarine waters along Taiwan's west coast and are seriously threatened by human activities in, and impacts on, their habitat. The two-day training sessions will include lectures by leading cetacean scientists, ecologists and researchers of their history and habitat, threats to cetacean* survival and measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of the population’s extinction.

Directed primarily at persons who would like to participate in the awareness and conservation campaign, the first two sessions this year will be held a times roughly corresponding with the calming of the coastal waters that begins around the time of the birthday of the goddess of the sea, Matsu, which this year falls on 28 April (lunar calendar 23d day of the third month). See below for details:

Purpose of Training:
The aim of this year’s course is to train 40 volunteers (20 in each weekend course) to become land-based observers of the dolphins and help compile long-term observation records, which will contribute to understanding of the population. During the dolphin-watching season they may also provide support to interpretation activities and work as staff members.

Training Schedule:
1st session: 12 April 2008 (Saturday) to 13 April 2008 (full)
2nd session: 19 April 2008 (Saturday) to 20 April 2008 (places still available)

1st course: Providence University Fangjilousheng Classroom number 117, Number 20 Jhongci Road, Shalu Township, Taichung County (map).
2nd course: Fa-e-chaoren’s Home, Number 376, Haifong Road Section 2, Wugang Village, Taisi Township, Yunlin County (map).

※Note that depending on demand there will be more sessions scheduled throughout the coming months. All sessions are currently planned to be held in mandarin Chinese, however, if there is sufficient demand we will be happy to arrange for an English language course.

Application deadline:
There are still 5 places left for the second workshop, and we will stop accepting applications for that course once those places are filled.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and enthusiastic about ecological conservation!

Training fee:
NT$ 800 (this includes the cost of handouts and insurance and a NT$500 deposit, which will be returned to the volunteer upon completion of the course and 10 hours of work. In the event that the trainee does not fulfill these requirements their deposit will go towards the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Fund where it may contribute to future training.

How to apply:
After submitting the training fee, we will send you a receipt and an application form (下載 Chinese copy also downloadable here), which you should email to or fax to (04)2653-0021, and your application will be complete.

How to pay:
By post office transfer to:
Account number: 22534681
Account Name: Taiwan Academy of Ecology
※Please be sure to add the following note on your payment slip: “Payment for Matsu’s Fish Training Course”

Description of work:
Ten hours of interpretation and compiling land-based observation records.

Lesson content:
Day 1
09:00~10:30:- An Introduction to Cetaceans,
Speaker: Ray Chin

10:50~12:00:- Current Conservation Status of Matsu’s Fish,
Speaker: Chen Bing-hen

13:20~15:00:- The State of Taiwan’s West Coast Ecology
Speaker: Tsai Chia-Yang

15:20~17:00:- West Coast Ecology Threats,
Speaker: Chen Bing-hen

Day 2
09:00~12:00:- Land-based Observation part I
13:20~17:00:- Land-based Observation part II

Introduction to speakers:
Chen Bing-hen: Taiwan Academy of Ecology Secretary General
Ray Chin : Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation
Tsai: Chia-yang: Changhua Coastal Conservation Action

※ Please bring your own cup and chopsticks or other cutlery, and for the land-based observation please bring binoculars, a camera, drinking water, and be prepared to be under the hot sun!

Enquiry hotline:
Chinese: (04) 2632-8001 ext. 17054 (Miss A Gan of Taiwan Academy of Ecology)
English: 0938 643 410 (Chris, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association).

* Cetacean: Belonging to the order Cetacea, an order of aquatic, chiefly marine mammals, which are whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Monday, April 7, 2008

TEPU calls on Taiwan's president-elect to focus on environmental issues

The Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), one of Taiwan's leading environmental NGOs, has called on president-elect, Ma Ying-jeou, to focus on environmental issues. The outgoing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had many of its roots in the environmental movement. However, once in power, the DPP seemed to abandon its eco origins and left a very disappointing environmental track record. Previously under the Chinese National Party (KMT) the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) was nothing more than a rubber stamp department and had an a abysmal track record for protecting the environment. With the return of the KMT on an economic ticket environmentalists are very concerned that the KMT will pick up where they left off and environmental destruction in the name of development will once again become the order of the day.