TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A snorkeler was arrested on Monday (June 10) for stomping on an endangered green sea turtle on an island in the far south of Taiwan, announced the Southern Branch of the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) on Tuesday (June 11).
At 2 p.m. on Monday, a local resident told CGA that while he was shooting video of marine life around Vase Rock, he inadvertently recorded a male snorkeler touch and harass sea turtles, and at one point even stomping on a turtle with his foot. When he reviewed the footage, he believed that the man had intentionally harassed the turtles and could have inflicted harm on them.
The CGA then immediately dispatched officers to surrounding residential hotels to track down the suspect. Not long afterward, CGA patrolmen spotted the male tourist in front of a clinic.
When an officer asked the man if he had harassed sea turtles while snorkeling around Xiaoliuqiu, his female companion first spoke for him and said, "We did not see any turtles." The man then said that he had seen a turtle, but claimed he did not touch it and said, "When it swam toward me, I ran away quickly."
Snorkeler trying to touch a sea turtle. (CGA image)
However, when CGA patrolmen showed him the video of his actions, he bowed his head and admitted to stepping on a turtle, but claimed it was because his footing was unstable and that it was an accident. He denied that he had intentionally harassed the turtle.
CGA officers then presented the video to experts from the National Taiwan Ocean University Institute of Marine Biology, who confirmed that the creature the man stepped on was indeed a green sea turtle, which is listed as an endangered species in Taiwan.
After officers finished questioning the man, he was transferred to the Pingtung District Prosecutor's Office on charges of violating Article 18 of the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法). The act stipulates that protected animal must not be harassed, abused, hunted, or slaughtered.
Those who violate this provision may face one year in prison or a fine of NT$60,000 to NT$300,000. If the offender causes the death of a protected animal, they could face a prison sentence of up to two years or fine of between NT$100,000 and NT$500,000.