Foreign tourist in Taiwan charged for harassing protected turtle

German teenager shared photo of himself touching green sea turtle on trip to Xiao Liu Qiu

Boy and family with Coast Guard on Xiao Liu Qiu on Oct. 11.

Boy and family with Coast Guard on Xiao Liu Qiu on Oct. 11. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A foreign teenage tourist visiting Taiwan was charged by Pingtung County authorities on Thursday (Oct. 10) for disturbing a wild turtle in its natural habitat.

The German teenager was visiting Xiao Liu Qiu (小琉球) island, also known as Lumbai Island, a scenic tourist destination off the coast of southwest Taiwan, with his family members when the incident occurred. The boy reportedly shared a photograph of himself on social media showing him touching the back of a sea turtle while swimming underwater.

The boy’s actions were discovered by Coast Guard officials almost as soon as the photo was shared, prompting them to find the boy and his family while they were still on the beach. The incident occurred at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, and local authorities were alerted at around 2:50 p.m.

Photo shared and reported on social media (CNA photo)

Coast guard officials had tracked the family to their location on the beach with 15 minutes. Citing nearby signs that inform visitors not to bother the local turtles and other protected wildlife, the boy was promptly charged, and his case was sent to the Pingtung District Court's Juvenile Division the same day, reports UDN.

After inspecting the seemingly innocent photograph shared by the boy, the turtle was identified as a green sea turtle or Pacific sea turtle, which is a protected species. According to Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法), the boy’s actions violated Article 18 and, if found guilty of harassing protected wildlife, he may face a penalty of between NT$60,000 (US$1,950) to NT$300,000 (US$9,800).

The government asks that people respect Taiwan’s wildlife species and refrain from engaging in actions that may be harmful to their environment. If the public witnesses someone acting in violation of Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservation Act, they are urged to report the matter to local authorities by dialing 118.