John Ross Translated by Vanessa Wu
Photos by Gerrut Norval and John Ross
continent's worth of biodiversity crammed onto
a small island; Taiwan is truly a naturalist's
wonderland. The country's location at the confluence
of tropical and sub-tropical climate zones, its
mix of continental and maritime species, and
the mountain ranges that soar to almost 4,000
meters, combine to produce an amazing variety
of flora and fauna.
despite its small land area, is home to 70
species of mammals, around 500 species of birds
(although only about two-fifths of these are
year-round residents), and over 90 species
of reptiles. There are nearly 2,700 species
of saltwater and freshwater fish, over 30 species
of amphibians, and 18,000 identified species
of insects (including 400 butterfly species).
rapid industrial growth and Taiwan's high population
density have so adversely affected the environment
that few people have any contact with wildlife.
For many city residents, seeing "wild" animals
means a trip to the zoo.
FROM THE BRINK
the early 1990s Taiwan had justifiably acquired
a reputation as an environmental black hole.
Not only had pollution and hunting brought
ecological ruin to the former island paradise,
but Taiwan's demand for wild animal products
was helping push many species in Asia towards
finally came to a head in 1994 when the United
States imposed limited trade sanctions. Taiwan's
government pushed through new legislation, toughened
penalties, and cracked down on the illegal wildlife
trade. Sanctions were lifted the following year.
Since then, great progress has been made in wildlife
wildlife means protecting habitats, and although
the government started late (the first National
Park was founded in 1984) it has managed to
set aside 19.5 percent of Taiwan's land area.
There has been a sea change in government and
public awareness of, and interest in, conservation.
species such as the Swinhoe and Mikado pheasants,
which were thought to be headed for extinction,
have defied the worst predictions; their populations
are currently low but relatively stable. The
population of Taiwan's only monkey species, the
Formosan Rock Macaque, has grown steadily.
are several wildlife restoration projects underway,
including the Birdwing Butterfly on Orchid
Island and the Formosan Landlocked Salmon in
Shei-pa National Park.
most successful project has been with the Formosan
Sika Deer--an endemic lowland subspecies that
favors open grassy plains. It went extinct
in the wild in the late 1960s, but stocks at
Taipei Zoo and in commercial farms were used
to establish a captive breeding facility in
Kenting National Park in 1984. The population
there has grown to about 300, of which half
are now in the wild. Another 500 roam Green
FOR SEEING WILDLIFE
from monkeys and squirrels, the odds of seeing
mammals in the wild are rather slim. Although
birds make a better target, getting close can
be difficult. The fauna you can most easily
find and observe in detail are insects, lizards,
and frogs. And these can be seen very close
to home; in forests, along a creek, or in an
orchard. It is not necessary to head for the
hills. Many people think that most wildlife
lives high in the mountains, but species richness
is inversely related to elevation. Despite
industrialization, urbanization, and destructive
farming methods, there is still much to see
in Taiwan's lowland areas.
tends to be more active in early morning and
walks are great fun and very productive. Find
a farm or park; take a good torch, and you'll
find frogs and snakes. -Take your time. Walk
slowly and quietly. Stop regularly, scan the
landscape for movement and listen for sounds
such as rustling leaves or the calls of birds
a comfortable place to sit; wait and watch. Most
animals are very sensitive to movement and sound.
It's best to sit quietly and allow them to get
used to your presence. Try to blend into the
surrounding landscape. Wear natural colors and
clothes that don't rustle.
binoculars and insect repellant.
and use field guides. They're filled with interesting
information, and have great tips on how to identify
and find wildlife.
viewing sites have blinds/hiding places. Please
use them to minimize disturbance to the wildlife.
PLACES TO VISIT
Fushan Botanical Gardens
20 kilometers west of Ilan City, the 1,098-hectare
Fushan Botanical Gardens offers the greatest
diversity of wildlife found in one small area.
The park is open from 9 am to 4 pm, and the number
of visitors allowed in is limited. It is closed
on Tuesdays and during most of February and March.
Entry is free, but you need to book a place,
preferably a month in advance. This can be done
through the Internet (http://fushan.tfri.gov.tw/a002.htm).
Tel: (03) 922-8900 ext.103
Nanren in Kenting National Park is a unique lowland
forest habitat. As with Fushan, visitor numbers
are restricted. It is closed on Tuesdays; hours
are 8 am-5:30 pm. Visitors need to book a place
by sending their name and ID number through the
Internet or by phone. Nanren Office: (08) 881-1095.
Kenting National Park Office (08) 886-1321. (http://www.ktnp.gov.tw)
the more adventurous naturalist, two of the best
areas are Mt. Dawu Nature Reserve in Pingtung
County, and the eastern part of Yushan National