Animal protection groups yesterday called on the Legislative Yuan to amend the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) or draft a separate law that would provide a clear legal basis for restoration efforts for critically endangered animals.

Government funding for conservation has been cut every year since the act was promulgated three decades ago, the groups said.

“The government has adopted a concerned, but passive attitude toward the conservation of endangered animals, instead of furthering attempts to restore the populations,” the groups said.

The government conducts censuses and surveys of animal populations, but that is not enough, said Pei Chia-chi (裴家騏), director of the Institute of Wildlife Conservation at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology.

Survey results show that endangered animal populations are decreasing, and some have become extinct, Pei said.

For example, the Taiwanese clouded leopard was declared extinct in 2015, Pei said, adding that rumors of clouded leopard sightings last year have yet to be proven.

Legislative action is needed to give animal restoration efforts a legal basis and endangered species a chance at recovering, Pei added.

The nation should not focus on research and surveys while dismissing the importance of restoration, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) said, adding that amendments should be introduced to specify goals, estimated times of completion and budgets.

Wang and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) called on the government to set aside political differences and work together to push for the amendment.

Taiwan Animal Protection Monitor Network chairman Wang Wei-chih (王唯治) said that the amendment should introduce clauses to strengthen endangered animal conservation efforts.

Amendments are necessary, as the current level of funding has failed to prevent the decline of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin population, which fell from 100 in 2002 to 50 in recent surveys, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association founder Robin Winkler said.

Animal conservation should not only focus on monitoring administrative agencies or the Forestry Bureau, but should also monitor the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which oversee land development, Winkler said.

Chinese Wild Bird Federation secretary-general Lee Yi-hsin (李益鑫) said that the amendment should prioritize animal conservation when considering development around or on natural habitats.

Development efforts should be halted immediately if endangered species are present, Lee added.

Forestry Bureau Conservation Division Director Hsia Jung-sheng (夏榮生) said that the government would take the suggestions into consideration when making policies, while thanking the groups for their help.