The area adjacent to Jiaming Lake (嘉明湖) in southeastern Taiwan has emerged as a paradise for wild animals three months after Typhoon Morakot wiped out hiking trails leading to the scenic mountain lake, forest rangers said yesterday.
Torrential rain brought by Typhoon Morakot triggered landslides in many of Taiwan’s mountain regions, including the Siangyang National Forest Recreation Area in Yushan National Park, where the remote lake is situated.
“With hiking trails leading to Siangyang (向陽) and Jiaming Lake seriously damaged, hikers disappeared, allowing many endemic animal species to reclaim lost territory,” said Huang Chun-tse (黃群策), a section chief at the Taitung branch office of the Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau.
While examining typhoon damage along a major hiking trail, Huang said he was amazed to spot several Formosan salamanders — a top-grade protected species endemic to Taiwan that lives at elevations above 2,000m — in the Siangyang hut.
Walking deeper into the mountain, Huang and his colleagues were in for an even bigger surprise.
“We came across many other protected animal species that have not been seen in the region since Jiaming Lake became a popular hiking spot,” Huang said.
Among the species spotted were Formosan yellow-throated martens, Formosan field mice and Formosan sambar, a kind of deer.
Lin Ming-chuang (林明壯), a forest ranger at the Siangyang work station, said the Siangyang-Jiaming area became inaccessible to hikers after Typhoon Morakot, allowing wild animals to return to their previous habitats.
“Hiking trails have again become dominated by wild animals,” he said. “Without human presence, many sambar now often loiter in the Siangyang Forest Recreation Area at night and yellow-throated martens also like to stroll along Siangyang-Jiaming hiking trails.”
The absence of the thousands of hikers that used to visit the area every weekend in previous years had helped restore the surrounding environment to a more pristine state, Lin said.
“The damage to access roads may be a boon, allowing the region to take a rest and resume its function as a safe haven for wild animals,” he said.
At an elevation of 3,310m and measuring 120m by 80m, the lake has become a popular hiking spot in recent years because of its clear water and beautiful scenery.