TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A total of 154 rare cats with an estimated market value of NT$10 million (US$357,000) were culled after being discovered on a smugglers’ ship, reports said Saturday (Aug. 21).
The cats, locked up two to six to a cage, included rare breeds such as the Russian Blue, the American Shorthair, the Persian cat, and the Ragdoll, CNA reported. Nevertheless, the authorities insisted they had to be culled because they posed a threat to the health of animals inside the country.
The Coast Guard Administration in Kaohsiung City received a tip-off that smugglers were picking up goods from another ship near Penghu in the middle of the Taiwan Strait. On Aug. 19, the Coast Guard used radar to locate a ship 9 nautical miles off the port of Anping in Tainan City.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they first forced the vessel to enter Kaohsiung harbor, where they had a hospital conduct PCR tests on the captain and crew. Only when the tests proved negative, did they board the ship with a warrant.
The inspectors discovered two hidden compartments on the ship containing 62 portable cages housing cats from expensive breeds. An initial estimate put the number of animals at 250, but a more detailed examination concluded there had been 154 felines on board.
By 4 p.m. Saturday, all animals had been culled by the Kaohsiung branch of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ), CNA reported. The agency defended its actions, saying the animals might have imported diseases such as rabies into the country, threatening local wildlife and pets.
A spokesperson for Animal Rescue Team Taiwan (ARTT) acknowledged the origin of the cats was not clear, but nevertheless said that positive measures by new masters might have prevented any harm.
Previous attempts by the group to save smuggled turtles had also failed because there was no room in the law for anything else but the culling of illegally imported animals, ARTT said. A medical inspection should find any problems with the animals, and if none were found, they should be put up for adoption through non-profit organizations or local government animal protection departments, the group concluded.