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Captured baboon's death sparks outcry in Taiwan

Published on 2023-06-03 16:32:47 source:NBC News

A baboon has been killed after being on the loose for over two weeks in a Taiwan city, sparking an outcry and allegations of animal cruelty.

The olive baboon was believed to have escaped from a zoo, and was first spotted on 10 March in Taoyuan city.

After several unsuccessful attempts, authorities captured the primate on Monday with a tranquiliser dart.

But it died shortly after, with officials saying the animal had been found with gunshot wounds.

That has prompted criticism of authorities' actions.

Search teams had been set up across the region in the past fortnight, as the baboon zig-zagged through various districts.

Local media outlets reported that those tracking it were armed with tranquiliser darts, while others were put on "baboon watch" shifts.

The baboon was reportedly already seriously wounded when it fell into a net trap laid by officers from the city's agriculture bureau on Monday.

Members of the public have questioned why officers failed to pay attention to its injuries - which the agriculture bureau said were initially missed.

Public outrage about the death of the animal - which had not harmed anyone during its wandering - has also been fuelled by a lack of transparency from authorities.

Police have launched an investigation into how it died.

One hunter who had been assigned to the search admitted to local media that he had fired his shotgun, but said he only used it under the instruction of a different government agency.

Taiwan's Business Today also reported that locals also took issue with the "flippant" reaction of an agriculture bureau official, who was caught on camera as he photographed the wounded animal, saying, "I want my preschool daughter to be able to tell her classmates, 'My dad caught the baboon, I didn't lie to you.'"

The public criticism prompted Taoyuan's mayor Simon Chang to issue a statement on Tuesday. He said those responsible would face legal consequences.

"Some of our colleagues did not manage the situation in a prudent and professional manner," he wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

"They have failed to uphold our respect for animal welfare which is expected of agricultural authorities."

The incident has also highlighted the lack of zoo regulations in Taiwan.

Zoos in Taiwan are managed by the education department rather than animal experts, as they are legally considered "social education institutions".

An opposition lawmaker called the baboon's death a "tragedy of administrative failure".

Baboons are generally indifferent to humans, but they do attack when provoked, and are potentially very dangerous because of their sharp teeth and claws.

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