Taiwan closer to establishing center for endangered turtle

Taipei, June 20 (CNA) Taiwan's Forestry Bureau announced Friday that it has received a donation to support government efforts to build a research and conservation center in Taiwan for the endangered yellow- margined box turtle. The NT$1 million (US$33,300) check came from Pan Shi-yuen, chairman of San Francisco developer Pan Pacific Ocean, which will help Taiwan's push for the center that is expected to ultimately become Asia's hub for turtle protection, the bureau said. The terrestrial turtle, which resides mainly in forests in Taiwan, is in jeopardy due to rampant poaching and smuggling to China, said Lee Tao-sheng, the bureau's director-general. Taiwan's police seized around 5,000 endangered turtles just before they were to be smuggled to China last year, with over half of them yellow-margined box turtles, indicating a pressing need for Taiwan to take the lead in protecting the animal, the bureau said. The center's top priority will be to properly attend to the rescued turtles, and there will also be efforts made to keep the species in Taiwan and trace how turtles reintroduced to the wild are doing, the bureau said. The center will also extend its reach to turtles in Southeast Asia in the future as conservation efforts in that region also face great challenges, according to the bureau. Pan, meanwhile, pledged to donate more than NT$2 million next year to keep up the conservation momentum, and will spend NT$1 billion within the next 10 years to buy forest land that would be dedicated to wildlife protection. Besides the turtles, Pan said he also wants to save leopard cats, another endangered species in Taiwan. (By Yang Shu-min and Lee Hsin-Yin)