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Injured owl chick released after 3-month recovery

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The injured eastern grass owl is being released at a Pingtung County riverbank in this recent photo. Photo courtesy of Pingtung County Government

Taipei, April 14 (CNA) An eastern grass owl chick found injured in Pingtung County's Yenpu Township in January has made a full recovery and was released back into the wild on April 9, according to a statement released Sunday by the county government.

The chick had strained its wings and was cared for by the Pingtung Rescue Center for Endangered Wild Animals under National Pingtung University of Science and Technology. After three months of care, it regained the ability to catch live mice and was subsequently released by a riverbank, the statement said.

The eastern grass owl is an endangered species with an estimated population of fewer than 500 in Taiwan, the statement said.

As the bird is active on low-lying farmland, when a chick is unfamiliar with flying and hunting, it can encounter many dangers and the species has a high mortality rate, said researcher Hung Hsiao-yu (洪孝宇) at the university's rescue center.

The injured chick was reported by a local pineapple farmer surnamed Lin (林), who had taken ecology classes organized by the county government, said the statement.

The statement quoted Lin as saying he learned about the eastern grass owl in the classes, but never expecting to encounter a grass owl in need. However, he was happy the rescue was successful.

The classes are part of the local government's participation in the Forestry and Nature Conservation Agency's "Endangered Species and Important Habitat Ecological Services Benefits Promotion Plan," in which the county pays farmers incentives to adopt eco-friendly farming practices such as refraining from using rat poison, traps and bird nets, as well as protecting the grass owl's feeding area.

In 2022, 32 farmers were approved to attend the program, increasing to 48 in 2023, covering a total of 68.65 hectares of farmland, the statement said.

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