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Keelung group protects birds, habitats in northern Taiwan

The black kite is designated Keelung’s official city bird. (Photos courtesy of WBSK)
The black kite is designated Keelung’s official city bird. (Photos courtesy of WBSK)
 
Taiwan boasts one of the world’s highest densities of bird species. Of the around 10,000 varieties found globally, the country and its outlying islands are home to or provide resting spots for 663.
 
This healthy state of affairs is due to blessings bestowed on Taiwan by Mother Nature and the efforts of organizations like Wild Bird Society of Keelung. WBSK is among 21 groups affiliated with Taipei City-based Chinese Wild Bird Federation.
 
While CWBF is devoted to assisting with policymaking efforts and promoting national-level initiatives, WBSK carries out regular surveys of birds in the northern Taiwan port city and surrounding areas in adjacent New Taipei City, as well as the outlying islands.
 
Shen Chin-feng, who heads WBSK’s survey team, said the number of black kites, peregrine falcons and streaked shearwaters is a strong environmental indicator. “For example, sea birds are closely related to marine ecology, and the presence of birds of prey says a lot about the state of biodiversity in a specific area.”
 
A male peregrine falcon soars through the skies in northern Taiwan.
A male peregrine falcon soars through the skies in northern Taiwan.
 
These sentiments are echoed by WBSK Chairperson Cheng Wei. The former research assistant at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology’s Institute of Wildlife Conservation in southern Taiwan said three additional black kite nests were spotted this year. “This brings the total to 10, and should see the number of young birds successfully leaving the nest exceed 14.”
 
The black kite population also benefits from progress in the agricultural sector. In the past, high levels of pesticide were prevalent in Taiwan’s mountains and plains. The birds would fall prey to the effects after ingesting poisoned animals. With rural communities no longer issued free pesticides, and farmers switching to organic farming, black kites are on course for a comeback.
 
Credit rests squarely on the shoulders of WBSK and other conservation groups and activists. Recent projects involve working with local communities and schools to promote environmental awareness. Headline undertakings include one at Neiliao wetland in downtown Keelung and another for peregrine falcons in New Taipei’s coastal Shenao area.
 
A brown booby takes wing over Keelung Islet.
A brown booby takes wing over Keelung Islet.
 
The former is funded under the Ministry of the Interior’s wetland protection initiative, while the latter is supported via the Eco Echo Award. Launched in 2016, the annual prize is backed by United Microelectronics Corp. headquartered in northern Taiwan’s Hsinchu City. It sponsors five selected programs proposed by environmental and community development groups with funding of up to NT$1 million (US$32,754)
 
“We must try to live in harmony with and protect the natural world,” Shen said. “The way we treat birds today could be the harbinger of how Mother Nature will treat humans tomorrow.” (E) (By Pat Gao)
 
A WBSK survey team disembarks at Mianhua Islet.
A WBSK survey team disembarks at Mianhua Islet.
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