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School offers reward to capture swan egg thief

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- TransWorld University (環球科技大學) yesterday offered a reward of NT$5,000 for any information leading to the capture of a thief that reportedly stole four of the five eggs laid by the school's black swans.

The swans, large birds with mostly black plumage and red bills, are nesting in a man-made lake on the school campus. A boat house is home to black swans, geese and Muscovy ducks. One pair of black swans laid five eggs this February, the geese followed shortly after.

School faculty member Hsu Ruei-fang said that the pen (the female swan) had concentrated on incubating the eggs while the cob (the male swan) guarded her nearby. The cob would try to attack each time someone approached the boat house.

The school had expected to greet the new baby swans 35 days after the eggs were laid. However, four of the eggs disappeared when the swan caretaker checked on the birds last Thursday, leading to speculation that they had been stolen.

The lake is three meters deep, and the school said that they searched it but found nothing. No traces of a thief were found in surveillance camera footage, said the caretaker, who added that he has been losing sleep from worry over the theft.

Swan experts from National Chung Cheng University noted that black swans, which are are monogamous breeders and share incubation duties, have a habit of removing bad eggs from their nest, but if an egg dropped into the water it would float and would be easy to discover. The school has not yet ruled out the possibility that a snake ate the eggs, as was the case with swan eggs laid at Chung Cheng University.

Black swans are native to Australia, where they breed mainly in the southeast and southwest regions. Within Australia, the swans have no fixed territory and migrate in erratic patterns which are determined by the local weather conditions.

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