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Pity the Pitta

Taiwan Dam Threat

An important breeding site for one of Asia`s most spectacular birds, the Fairy Pitta, is under threat from a proposed new dam.

Construction of the Hushan Dam will flood 422 hectares of pristine forest thought to hold one of the highest densities of breeding Fairy Pittas in the world.The Hushan Dam site is located in a geologically unstable and earthquake-prone area in Yunlin County, central Taiwan. Since a major earthquake in September 1999, the ground is thought to be even less stable than when the initial geological assessments were carried out. It is feared that the dam might be damaged if another earthquake were to occur. It could even collapse and cause flooding in nearby Douliu City.

The globally threatened Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha breeds in Taiwan before migrating to Borneo for the non-breeding season. 173 individuals were found at the site in a 2001 survey, out of a global population that may number as few as 2,500 birds. As a result, the Fairy Pitta is classified by BirdLife as Vulnerable and is listed as an endangered species under Taiwan`s Wildlife Protection Act. The endemic Swinhoe`s Pheasant Lophura swinhoii also occurs in the area.

As well as having a devastating effect on the area`s unique wildlife, there are also concerns about the economic viability of the project. BirdLife International and Wild Bird Federation Taiwan (BirdLife`s Taiwanese Partner) hope that a more environmentally-friendly and better-value alternative can be found. For instance, it would be safer and cheaper to extract ground water from the Chingshiu River ? as well as having less impact on the environment and the future of the pitta.

4th July 2014