Sat, May 31, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Refuge boosts endangered turtles’ survival

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

National Pingtung University of Science and Technology professor Chen Tien-hsi is pictured holding a Yellow-margined Box Turtle at the the Feitsui Reservoir Yellow-margined Box Turtle Wildlife Refuge in New Taipei City yesterday.

Photo: Hsieh Wen-hwa, Taipei Times

The establishment of the Feitsui Reservoir (翡翠水庫) Yellow-margined Box Turtle Wildlife Refuge has helped protect the habitat of the endangered turtle and enhanced their survival rate, the Forestry Bureau said yesterday.

National Pingtung University of Science and Technology professor Chen Tien-hsi (陳添喜) said the survival rate of full-grown turtles, which usually have no natural enemies in their habitat except for human beings, has reached more than 94 percent in the wildlife refuge, which is a very high rate for wild animals.

The yellow-margined box turtle, also known as the snake-eating turtle, is designated a rare and valuable species by the Council of Agriculture, classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, and listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

However, thousands of protected turtles en route to China, where it is an expensive delicacy, have been seized at various harbors in recent years, showing that hunting by human beings has become the biggest threat to the species, Forestry Bureau Conservation Division director Guang Li-hao (管立豪) said.

To protect the species, the bureau was granted permission to designate a 1,296-hectare wildlife refuge for the species at Feitsui Reservoir in December last year, Guang said, adding that it is also the only land turtle wildlife refuge in the nation and strictly managed to prevent human intrusion.

Chen said that an ecological survey of the areas showed that the establishment of the wildlife refuge has not only protected the turtle population, but also preserved the integrity of the area’s ecosystem and that many other native wild animals, such as the Formosan serow, Formosan barking deer, pangolin and crab-eating mongoose, have been seen in the area.

Taipei Feitsui Reservoir Administration commissioner Liou Ming-Lone (劉銘龍) added that a snake-eating turtle restoration halfway house was established in March, where wounded turtles can recover before being released back into the wild.

Twenty turtles — 10 snake-eating turtles and 10 Asian yellow pond turtles seized from smugglers — are now living in the shelter, he said, adding that an egg was recently found in the shelter, proving that the environment is suitable for them.

Adding to mountain patrols and surveillance cameras set in the area, Liou said the administration recently started installing a new infrared surveillance system that will send an instant message to security guards to take immediate action to stop illegal hunting and is to be completed by September.

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