A wave of cruelty towards invading iguanas in Taiwan, including sticking firecrackers in reptiles’ mouths or shooting them with bows and arrows, has prompted animal rights groups to call for a government crackdown.
The Taiwan (East) Animal and Environment Society said that local and provincial government campaigns to encourage community participation in controlling the spread of introduced species lacked guidelines, resulting in “free chaos for all at the expense of the welfare of the target animals ”.
East said the government had delegated pest control responsibilities to local authorities, some of which had implemented plans that were not “thought out.”
Some campaigns offered food and cash rewards for citizens who kill green iguanas and brown anoles, a type of lizard. East said a 2017 cash reward scheme was fully underwritten in one day and had no verification process, raising concerns that people were raising animals to collect payment.
Social media posts of the hunters’ sets have shown iguanas that were shot with bows and arrows, cut while conscious, or had limbs stuck to the sides of their bodies and firecrackers lit inside their mouths. Iguana meat is currently for sale by individuals on e-commerce sites.
“The trouble they cause [with the current situation] Are there people who are not familiar with animal behavior and cannot distinguish native species from non-native species that look alike? ”Said a researcher from the organization, Hsin-Yuan Chang. “There is no aid or conservation work. Furthermore, the methods they use are not humane and do not take animal welfare into account. “
Green iguanas are a highly invasive species in Taiwan, blamed for damaging crops, driving out native species, and eroding canals with their tunnels. In 2020, the agriculture council said the population had multiplied by 27 in the last five years. He attributed the boom to the legalization in 2001 of their importation and sale as pets, some of which were later released into the wild. Importation was banned again in 2015.
Lin Shu-fen, a legislator for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said: “While population management of invasive non-native species plays an important role in protecting biodiversity, removal of animals must take into account animal welfare, promote conservation values and avoid transmitting antisocial messages. “
Chang said the forestry and fisheries departments had begun training employees in proper removal, but new laws were needed to give them the power to prohibit citizens from conducting their own removals.
“What we demand of the government is that they use formal research on the target species and that the experts train the staff to implement the plans. Only trained professionals should be able to do the removal work, ”Chang said, adding that East and Lin also wanted to see a ban on by-products like meat and leather, which could have carried public health risks.
Lo Yu-chuan, head of the conservation division of the forestry office, told the local media Rules exist on the humane removal of non-native species, but have not been made public. He said the government would consider publishing the rules and discussing whether it was appropriate for local authorities to offer rewards. Animal welfare officials said they would investigate any act of cruelty that carries jail time.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism