Eco-friendly rice paddy becomes home for endangered animals

Taipei, Dec. 4 (CNA) A rice paddy in Miaoli County is using environmentally friendly planting methods to be a home not just for the crop, but for endangered animals as well.
The field in Fengshu, a community in Tongxiao Township, was selected by the Forestry Bureau of the Council of Agriculture in March as a preserve for leopard cats, an endangered feline native to Taiwan.
Under Forestry Bureau guidance and with aid from a leopard cat conservation team at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, farmers planted the fields where the rare animal had been discovered without using any fertilizer or pesticides.
Now that the rice is ready for the second harvest of the year, bureau staff has discovered through hidden cameras that not only have leopard cats settled down there, but also civet cats, white-breasted water hens, crested serpent eagles, intermediate egrets, Formosan hares, masked palm civets, and ferret badgers.
The Forestry Bureau said when the pesticide-free rice is ready for harvest, it attracts rats and hares, which in turn bring the leopard cats and civet cats. The predators then help protect the rice harvest.
The complexity makes up a whole food chain and helps balance the ecosystem, said the bureau, which is organizing a team of 40 volunteers to help farmers gather the rice on Sunday and share in the harvest.
All of the 40 spots were already booked up by Thursday, according to the bureau. (By Kuan Jui-pin and Maubo Chang)