Author / BY KELLY HER
Nature enthusiasts marvel at several Pomponia linearis cicadas spotted on a stump of wood. (Photo courtesy of Society of Wilderness)
Ongoing campaigns by nongovernmental organizations are powering Taiwan’s wildlife conservation movement.
An unassuming plot in the mountains of northeastern Taiwan’s Yilan County may seem like an unlikely location for a commemorative plaque. It is, however, the culmination of 23 years of conservation work for Society of Wilderness (SOW), a Taipei City-based nongovernmental organization (NGO). The marker indicates the 1,760-square-meter area purchased by the group to establish a permanent wildlife sanctuary.
“This land is crucial to our long-term goal,” SOW Chairperson Liu Yueh-mei (劉月梅) said. “A lot of endangered species live here, and we’re striving to maintain and restore the local ecosystem.” Animals calling the sanctuary home include the crested serpent eagle, fish hawk, pangolin and Taiwan blue magpie, she added.
Visitors on a SOW-organized wildlife tour take in the beauty of their surroundings. (Photo courtesy of SOW)
Since its establishment in 1995, SOW has worked tirelessly to support conservation causes. “One of our founding objectives was to establish wildlife refuges on land acquired through donations, entrustments, long-term leases and purchases.” Liu said. “Such work is vital because human activity is increasingly encroaching on animal habitats.”
To date, the organization has helped manage 70 pieces of land across Taiwan ranging from farms, lakes, parks and streams to mountain trails and wetlands. Its staffers and volunteers regularly conduct field investigations to check on environmental changes, species populations and resource availability.
Currently, SOW has about 5,600 paid-up members supporting some 2,000 volunteers and 11 branches nationwide. The organization’s other endeavors include promoting eco-friendly farming methods, providing public education and outreach programs, and monitoring government policies. Last year, it hosted a variety of training courses, exhibitions, lectures and nature observation activities attended by more than 230,000 people.
An orange oakleaf butterfly stops for a rest on a young boy’s finger. (Photo courtesy of SOW)
To increase its influence, the society seeks partnerships with central government agencies including the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture (COA) and Environmental Protection Administration, the Construction and Planning Agency of the Ministry of the Interior, as well as local governments and communities on conservation projects.
“We want to help people reconnect with nature and appreciate all its wonders,” Liu said. “Our mission is to achieve peaceful coexistence with all living creatures and the natural environment.”
Life Conservationist Association (LCA), founded in Taipei in 1993, is another NGO working to promote animal welfare. Unlike other groups dedicated to the protection of specific species like birds of prey, black bears or leopard cats, LCA works to protect all wildlife, Chairman Ted Chang (張章得) said.
According to Chang, grassroots movements have contributed greatly to Taiwan establishing the relevant legal frameworks needed to safeguard local fauna. One example is the Animal Protection Act, which was passed in 1998 following sustained lobbying from around 20 NGOs including LCA.
Activists participating in a protest held by LCA and other animal welfare groups march through downtown Taipei’s Ximending shopping district Oct. 6, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Life Conservationist Association)
“We’re an advocacy NGO, meaning we engage with the government to adopt key policy initiatives on areas such as fisheries management and wildlife trafficking,” Chang said. Successful examples include revising the Wildlife Conservation Act to impose bans on circuses importing or exporting protected species, fishing for whale sharks and manufacturing and selling animal traps.
LCA has also partnered with U.S.-based environmental conservation organization WildAid to conduct public awareness programs since 1996. The initiatives are focused on reducing global consumer demand for products such as elephant ivory, pangolin scales, shark fins and rhino horns using the slogan “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”
By enlisting popular stars from Asia, Africa and the West to spread its message, WildAid has managed to deliver high-impact, culturally sensitive campaigns around the world that reach hundreds of millions of people each year. Local singer Jay Chou (周杰倫) and his wife, model Hannah Quinlivan (昆凌), are among the organization’s celebrity ambassadors.
Taiwan pop star Jay Chou is among the celebrities who back WildAid’s campaign to stop the ivory trade. (Photo courtesy of WildAid)
Taiwan is set to do its part to protect elephants when it introduces a complete ban on the ivory trade starting Jan. 1, 2020. Currently, the law permits transactions that include declared ivory when permission from the supervisory authority has been granted. The change is a reaction to growing public concern about the consumption and purchase of illegal wildlife products, according to Chang. “It’s a reflection of the effectiveness of public education campaigns as well as enforcement of related regulations,” he added.
Another prominent NGO that has played a key role in the protection of Taiwan’s animal life is Society for Wildlife and Nature (SWAN) International. Its work includes conducting research projects; organizing ecological tours, public hearings, seminars and workshops; and pushing for legislative action. Founded in 1983 in Taipei, many of its members are conservation experts.
SWAN International has participated in numerous conservation and research projects commissioned by the central and local governments relating to animals such as fireflies and the Formosan sika deer, as well as conducting resource inventories and risk assessments for invasive species. It is currently promoting biodiversity through a series of forums and training courses under commission from the COA’s Forestry Bureau.
Jeng Ming-shiou, second left, chairman of Society for Wildlife and Nature International gives the thumbs up alongside other representatives from Taiwan at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity held Nov. 17-29, 2018 in Egypt. (Photo courtesy of Society for Wildlife and Nature International)
“What we’ve done reflects the evolution of the conservation movement in Taiwan,” said Jeng Ming-shiou (鄭明修), chairman of SWAN International. “Our recent efforts have focused on raising awareness regarding how biodiversity affects human life and mobilizing the general public to practice animal conservation.”
Beginning with a strict focus on local issues in Taiwan, the society has gradually widened its scope to international activities. It now has chapters in Australia, Israel, Japan and Thailand. “One of our organization’s features is its global networks,” Jeng said. “We work hard to foster exchanges with groups abroad and participate in conventions and treaties to make a greater contribution to wildlife conservation around the world.”
One example is SWAN International’s partnership with the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC in 1991. A strategic alliance between the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the U.K.-based organization works to eliminate the illegal animal trade.
Staffers from SWAN International distribute educational materials at a street fair. (Photo courtesy of SWAN International)
Members of SWAN International have also served as Taiwan’s representatives to the Convention on Biological Diversity and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, as well as IUCN and WWF conferences.
According to Jeng, such events keep the organization abreast of the latest information and policymaking trends while providing a platform to highlight the country’s conservation achievements on the world stage. Through the combined efforts of NGOs such as SWAN International, SOW and LCA, Taiwan has generated a groundswell of public support, meaning the country is closer than ever to safeguarding its natural heritage for future generations.
“As one of the pioneers of animal advocacy in Taiwan, we’re pleased that the government has taken wildlife conservation to heart and continuously improved legal protections,” Jeng said. “There are now more than 100 similar groups here who are working toward a common goal: ensuring we lose no more of the incredible species on this planet.”
Retrieve from Taiwan Review