Tue, Dec 17, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Turtle conservation area backed

POACHING PROBLEM:An increase in the smuggling of Chinese box turtles has led the Forestry Bureau to set up a protection area for rescued and wild turtles

By Chen Wei-tzu and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Feitsui Reservoir Administration Office in New Taipei City’s Shihding District is shown in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of the Feitsui Reservoir Administrative Office

The Council of Agriculture has approved a Forestry Bureau proposal to set up a wild Chinese box turtle conservation area near the Feitsui Reservoir (翡翠水庫) in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Shihding District (石碇).

Reservoir Administrative Office head Liu Ming-lung (劉銘龍) said a midway station would also be set up behind the office’s water resource and ecological education building to provide medical aid to injured Chinese box turtles found in the conservation area.

Medical assistance would not be restricted to turtles; other protected species in the area would be treated as well.

The station will double as a second conservation area for injured or sick animals and a buffer zone for wildlife recovered from poachers and smugglers can stay because returning them to the wild without preparation would only hurt them, Liu said.

However, the conservation area will not accept pet turtles that are no longer wanted, Liu said.

The area was proposed because of the increasing number of incidents of protected turtles being poached and smuggled abroad, as well as the recovery of many turtles from smugglers, Liu said.

The office will also step up the frequency of its patrols aound the conservation area to curb poaching, Liu said.

Chinese box turtles, also known as yellow-margined box turtles, are a Class II protected species.

They have been targeted in recent years because of their popularity as pets, as a source of food and for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

Under the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法), people convicted of poaching protected species could face a prison term of between six months and five years, Liu said, adding that once the conservation area is established, those convicted of poaching there would have their sentences extended by one-third of the original time.

“We are also considering asking National Pingtung University of Science and Technology professor Chen Tien-hsi (陳添喜) and National Chung Hsing University professor Wu Sheng-hai (吳聲海) to conduct a survey on the feasibility of returning turtles to the wild on the north coast of the reservoir,” Liu said. “We want to know if returning them to the wild would have an impact on the ecology of the area and determine the feasibility of reintroducing animals to the wild as a way of protecting turtle species under current regulations.”

The Reservoir Administrative Office will be aided in its management of the nearly 1,300-hectare area by staff at the bureau’s Luodong Township (羅東) branch, Liu said, adding that people caught polluting the environment or fishing illegally in nearby rivers will be fined between NT$50,000 and NT$250,000.

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