Taipei, June 20 (CNA) A man suspected of releasing poisonous snakes into a mountainous area of Yilan County denied the accusation Wednesday, saying the snakes he released were non-toxic and not endangered species.
A 36-year-old man, surnamed Wu, told police the 30 or so snakes that he and five friends released were non-toxic Dhaman and stink rat snakes that he purchased for NT$30,000 (US$1,011) from a snake supplier in New Taipei City on June 1.
Wu came forward after his Internet post titled "Releasing Animals Can Be Addictive," in which he professed to releasing the creatures to save them, drew heavy criticism from the public because several cobras were spotted in the area around the time Wu and his friends released the serpents.
The post, which gave details of the location, did not give information regarding the types of snake released.
Officials from the Yilan County Fire Bureau said they captured four cobras, one stink rat snake, and one Dhaman rat snake in the area Tuesday, and spotted nearly ten other snakes but were unable to capture them due to the difficult terrain.
The police are currently investigating Wu's claims to determine whether he and his friends violated the country's Wildlife Conservation Act and Social Order Maintenance Act. Wu's five friends and the New Taipei-based snake supplier will also be investigated.
The maximum prison sentence for releasing protected species into the wild is five years, according to the wildlife act.
If Wu did release the cobras, a protected species, he will face a prison sentence, the Yilan County government said.
Even if he did not release any cobras, he may be fined a maximum of NT$12,000 or be detained for a maximum of three days for violating the social order act, it added.
(By Shen Ju-feng and Ann Chen)