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Man arrested for illegally hunting endangered mountain hawk-eagle in southern Taiwan

Bird’s feather a symbol of authority to some Indigenous cultures, worth as much as NT$60,000

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Authorities find and seize a roomful of mountain hawk-eagle feathers at Chen's residence. (Seventh Special Police Corps Eighth Division photo...

Authorities find and seize a roomful of mountain hawk-eagle feathers at Chen's residence. (Seventh Special Police Corps Eighth Division photo...

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Pingtung man has been arrested for illegally hunting highly endangered mountain hawk-eagles in order to sell their prized feathers.

After the Seventh Special Police Corps received a report about someone hunting mountain hawk-eagles on a mountain in Pingtung, it established a task force to investigate and collect evidence, eventually targeting a male suspect surnamed Chen (陳), CNA reported. On Friday (May 6), the police arrested Chen and seized his mountain hawk-eagle feather products as well as his traps.

Liang Chia-hsien (梁家賢), head of the Seventh Special Police Corps’ eighth division, was cited as saying that Chen would capture mountain hawk-eagles, pluck out their feathers, and use other parts of the birds’ bodies to create headdresses and other accessories. The birds would die in the process, significantly hindering efforts to rehabilitate their population.

The Liberty Times reported that Chen’s home contained so many feathers that, when spread out on the floor, the entire living room was covered. While Chen allegedly attempted to downplay how many feathers he had collected by claiming that some had been passed down to him by relatives, after further interrogation, he admitted that he had inherited only two of the feathers seized.

The mountain hawk-eagle is widely viewed as a holy bird in some Taiwanese Indigenous cultures; its feathers symbolize authority and are used in traditional headdresses. The price of a single feather ranges from NT$10,000 (US$335) to NT$60,000.

The bird is currently listed as endangered by Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservation Act, and the Liberty Times cited a study from 2021 as saying there are fewer than 500 pairs left in Taiwan.

Chen is currently under further investigation and will be transferred to the Pingtung Prosecutors Office for violating the Wildlife Conservation Act.

Man arrested for illegally hunting endangered mountain hawk-eagle in southern Taiwan
There are reportedly fewer than 500 pairs of mountain hawk-eagles left in Taiwan. (Yushan National Park Headquarters photo)

Man arrested for illegally hunting endangered mountain hawk-eagle in southern Taiwan
Mountain hawk-eagle feathers are important in Indigenous culture, though headdresses are increasingly made with artificial feathers. (CNA
photo)