Police have uncovered a grisly killing spree in the mountains of Taitung County after finding the dismembered carcasses of 19 protected animal species.
Four people have been arrested on charges of illegal hunting and violation of the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法). Haiduan Township (海端) Police Chief Tsai Chun-jun (蔡春永) led the arrests on Sunday.
While patrolling the mountains on Saturday night, Tsai noticed bright searchlights in the forested areas, and deduced that they indicated the presence of poachers..
After calling for backup, his team waited at one of the mountain road entrances and eventually apprehended the four suspected hunters in the early hours of the following morning, as the men apparently finished up their hunt and were heading down the mountain on motorcycles.
Tsai and his fellow officers opened up the bags the men were carrying to find a total of 19 deer carcasses: 14 Reeves muntjacs, four Taiwanese serow and one Formosan sambar.
The officer was quoted as saying the animals were all shot by rifle, and three rifles were subsequently found on the hunters. Only one was registered.
The men said they were preparing meat for the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays, but this did little to assuage the anger of animal rights and conservation groups.
Conservationists accused the hunters of killing the protected animals for profit, saying that the number of animals shot indicated that they were destined to be sold to restaurants, some of which specialize in wild game.
Some of the suspects were reported to be Aborigines from local communities, who are allowed to hunt a certain number of animals during hunting season in certain areas, but only with licensed firearms.
However, Guanshan District (關山) Police Chief Yu Cheng-ting (尤正廷) said: “That is not the case. We are not currently in the hunting season as permitted for Aboriginal communities,” he said.
“With a total of 19 animals, it is the largest illegal hunting haul we have come across in many years,” Yu said.
Aboriginal communities say that hunting is part of their traditional practices, but animal rights and conservation groups say that the traditional custom was to hunt with bows and arrows.
Animal conservation groups have said that recent court rulings in favor of Aborigines hunting with firearms threaten the already dwindling wildlife, amid the rampant killing of protected species, such as the Formosan sambar and Reeves muntjacs, and might even lead to the hunting and extinction of the severely endangered Formosan black bear.