Many wildlife ponds in Taipei’s parks are occupied by red swamp crayfish, a non-native species, that is damaging the ecology of the ponds. This has prompted the the Taipei City Animal Protection Office yesterday to threaten fines for the release of such creatures into the wild.
At Fuyang Eco Park yesterday, animal traps could be seen in the wildlife pond whose purpose was to capture red swamp crayfish. Warning signs on nearby handrails informed visitors about the features of the crayfish and said that the traps were being used to reduce the invasive species’ harm to indigenous species.
Society of Wilderness board member Chen Te-hong (陳德鴻) said group members fetched the traps twice a day and had captured more than 2,000 red swamp crayfish over the past three months — about 30 a day — but many remain.
The red swamp crayfish was introduced by the aquaculture and ornamental aquarium industries in the 1980s, but masses of the animals were later abandoned in rivers, ponds and ditches, because its meat was considered not tasty enough, Animal Protection Office official Chen Hsaio-chi (陳小琦) said.
Its adaptability to the environment and reproductive ability are both strong, she said, adding that the crayfish often chews on the roots or stems of aquatic plants and threatens fish, shrimps or other animals in the water, she added.
“The Taipei City Government can take the lead to prohibit the sales of such crayfish at aquarium stores, by developing a self-regulation,” Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City Councilor Lee Ching-feng (李慶鋒) said.
Lee added that the species has been reported in several municipal parks already, and if the government does not come up with a strategy quickly, the damage to the ecology may worsen.
“Those releasing wild animals or non-native species may face a fine of between NT$50,000 [US$1,711] and NT$250,000, and if an ecosystem becomes imbalanced or is destroyed because of it, we can increase the fine to between NT$500,000 and NT$2.5 million,” Chen said.