Wed, Jun 08, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Firefighters accused of eating green sea turtles

SHELL-SHOCKED:Forestry Bureau official Kuan Li-hao said that he was ‘aghast at the firefighters’ conduct,’ adding that they should be more aware of conservation issues

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Two firefighters accused of eating a pair of green sea turtles were detained in Penghu County yesterday, with a fisherman admitting to killing and selling the protected species.

The captain and a lieutenant of a firefighting squad on Penghu’s Chipei Island (吉貝) were being held incommunicado, while another lieutenant and a fisherman were released on bail, the Penghu District Prosecutors’ Office said.

The fisherman, surnamed Hu (胡), admitted to poaching and dismembering two green turtles and selling the frozen meat to the three firefighters for NT$6,000 (US$186), according to a report by the Chinese-language Apple Daily.

The incident came to light on Thursday last week when a netizen posted photographs showing two cardboard boxes containing what appeared to be broken turtle shells behind a fire station.

The three firefighters purportedly thawed the meat and ate it for its supposed medicinal effects, the report said.

Prosecutors launched an investigation the next day.

The firefighters and fisherman face sentences of between six months and five years in prison and a fine of NT$300,000 to NT$1.5 million for the suspected killing and purchase of an endangered species, prosecutors said.

“I was aghast at the firefighters’ conduct,” Forestry Bureau Conservation Division Director Kuan Li-hao (管立豪) said. “Firefighters are supposed to be more aware of the significance of conservation because they are on the front lines of wildlife rescue and they often organize education and training programs with conservationists.”

“There has been no record of government officials being detained over breaches of the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) since it became law in 1989, and I have never seen such a thing in my career as a conservation official,” Kuan said.

Penghu, as well as Taitung County’s Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼), are the only known nesting sites of green turtles in Taiwan, but fewer turtles can be found because of loss of habitat and fishing activities, Kuan said.

A survey by National Taiwan Ocean University marine biology professor Cheng I-jiunn (程一駿), who has been monitoring the animal’s population in Penghu, showed that the number of green turtles nesting on Penghu has fallen from nearly 20 in 2008 and 2009 to only two last year.

A sea turtle rescue team was established in 2014 and most of the turtles it worked with were caught in fishing nets or killed by ingesting plastics, Kuan said, calling on the public to protect the animals.

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