About 200 Chinese box turtles, regarded as a class II protected species, were yesterday moved from an overcrowded facility in Greater Taichung to a new home in Kenting National Park in Pingtung County.
The animals, also known as yellow-margined box turtles, had been seized from smugglers and hunters. They have been heavily poached in recent years because of their popularity as pets and for use as food and in traditional Chinese medicine.
As a result of the seizures, the conservation center at National Chung Hsing University in Greater Taichung has become overcrowded, with 3,646 of the animals, which were seized between August 2006 and July, said Wu Sheng-hai (吳聲海), an associate professor from the university’s department of life sciences.
Wu, who leads the team taking care of the turtles, said the Sheding Formosan Sika Deer Restoration Area — which is also a natural habitat of the species — is the perfect place for the endangered animals.
The Hengchun Peninsula in Pingtung County was home to the species in times past, but the numbers plunged there as a result of habitat destruction, said Ma Hsieh-chun (馬協群), chief of the national park’s conservation research section.
Before ultimately releasing the turtles into the wild, the national park will include them in various projects, including academic research, eco-tourism and conservation promotion, Ma said.