Residents of Pingtung County’s Liouciou Township (琉球) have started a campaign to protect the terrestrial crabs in the area from the ever increasing tourist traffic by beginning a count of the crab population next month. The count will be held every Monday night.
Terrestrial crabs are crabs that have adapted to life on land and rarely return to the water. One instance in which they do need to return to water is during the birthing process, when the females have to migrate to sea or fresh water.
Siaoliouciou Ecotour Development Association director-general Tseng Yu-wen (曾毓文) said the area around the township is well suited to terrestrial crabs, but the local ecology has become threatened by tourists visiting the area.
More than 350,000 tourists visit the county each year, mostly to relax on beaches or to attend other events, such as the annual Spring Scream concerts, Tseng said, adding that several pregnant crabs are run over every year as they try to migrate to the sea during the birthing season from May to September.
Citing research by assistant professor of geography at National Kaohsiung Normal University Lo Liu-chih (羅柳墀) establisihing a direct link between the decrease in the number of crabs and increased tourism, the Siaoliouciou intertidal zones were declared off-limits to tourists in 2012.
The association said it aims to further restrict visits to local intertidal zones and hopes to establish an all-voluntary terrestrial crabs observation group.
The association will need at least three years to gather all the base data needed for long-term terrestrial crab monitoring, Tseng said, adding that the association will first focus on finding all the habitats of the crabs.
“During visits the areas inhabited by crabs, we will tag the different kinds of crabs on the backside of their chitin with numbers,” Tseng said, adding that the association would log the location, time and species of crabs discovered.
The association also hopes to schedule nighttime ecotours, as well as provide government units with useful information for future conservation policies.
Meanwhile, Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area Administration Office deputy manager Hsu Chu-lung (許主龍) said the office was aware of the campaign and, from the perspective of the government, he was glad to see voluntary action being taken by non-governmental organizations.
The Kenting National Park Administration Office, which has been engaged in terrestrial crab conservation events for more than a decade, implemented new measures last year to better protect terrestrial crabs during migration.
According to head of the Kenting office’s conservation division, Ma Hsieh-chun (馬協群), the office has adopted a “five minute blockade” on the primary four-lane routes that the crabs use.