The nation is recruiting a different sort of volunteers: ones willing to work at night, in the dark, helping little crabs cross a highway.
The workplace is Kenting National Park. The scenic area has an abundance of land crabs — 39 species representing seven families have been recorded there, with the highest land crab diversity found in the coastal forest of Banana Bay, according to the park’s administration.
However, the population of crabs is falling in Taiwan largely due to habitat destruction, human interference and changes in the environment and climate, the administration said.
During the annual peak spawning season between July and November, female land crabs in the park are often found crushed by cars or motorcycles on Highway 26 when they migrate from inland areas to coastal spawning grounds, it said.
The national park is taking measures to ensure that a rich variety of land crabs remains on the Hengchun Peninsula (恆春半島) in southern Taiwan.
Each year in September and October, the park recruits volunteers to help female crabs cross a highway to reach the beach where they lay their eggs.
Ma Hsieh-chun (馬協群), director of the national park’s conservation research section, said between 10 and 20 percent of land crabs in the area are killed during their journey to reproduce by passing vehicles.
To help the crabs traverse the road safely, the park’s administration closed part of the passing lane of the Highway 26 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm on Sept. 1 and it plans two more road closures on Sept. 30 and Oct. 30, Ma said.
So far, more than 1,400 people have signed up to help the crabs cross the highway, but Ma said he hoped to recruit 160 more.
Students and employees from Taiwanese companies are especially invited to help the crabs reach the sea safely and avoid being run over by vehicles.
Last month, about 40 volunteers from Compal Electronics Inc, the world’s second-largest contract producer of laptop computers, went to a seashore road near Highway 26 to prevent the land crabs from becoming “road-kill.”
These volunteers, about 10 of whom were children of Compal employees, wore headlamps and carried buckets to help female land crabs cross the road, a company statement said.
“This is a great place for environmental education, helping children realize the concept that lives have no difference in worth and all need humans’ care,” said Sue Chen, one of the volunteers, who joined the activity with her children.
Jeff Wang, senior manager of the Green Sustainability Office at Compal, said enterprises had a responsibility to improve people’s awareness of environmental protection.
“We hope small steps such as volunteer services and donations will encourage conservation workers in Kenting, attract more volunteers and localize the protection activity for land crabs in the area,” he said.