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Help wanted: Volunteers for crabs' highway crossing

2012/09/18 10:05:25

Taipei, Sept. 18 (CNA) Taiwan is recruiting a different sort of volunteers, ones willing to work at night, in the dark, helping little crabs cross a highway.

The workplace is Kenting National Park. The scenic area has an abundance of land crabs -- 39 species representing seven families have been recorded there, with the highest land crab diversity found in the coastal forest of Banana Bay, according to the park's administration.

However, the population of crabs is falling in Taiwan largely due to habitat destruction, human interference and changes in the environment and climate, the administration said.

During the annual peak spawning season between July and November, female land crabs in the park are usually found crushed by cars or motorcycles on the Provincial Highway 26 when they migrate from inland areas to coastal spawning grounds, the park's administration said.

The national park is taking active measures to ensure that a rich variety of land crabs always live on the Hengchun Peninsula in southern Taiwan.

Each year in September and October, the park recruits volunteers to help female crabs cross a highway to reach the beach where they lay their eggs.

Ma Hsieh-chun, chief of the national park's conservation research section, said about 10 to 20 percent of land crabs in this area have been killed by vehicles on their journey to reproduce.

To help the crabs traverse the road safely, the park's administration closed part of the passing lane of the Highway 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 1 and it plans two more road closures on Sept. 30 and Oct. 30, Ma said.

So far over 1,400 people have signed up to help the crabs cross the highway, but Ma said he hopes to recruit 160 more each year.

Students and employees from Taiwanese companies are especially invited to help the crabs reach the sea safely and avoid being run over by vehicles.

In late August, about 40 volunteers from Taiwan's Compal Electronics Inc., the world's second largest contract maker of laptops, went to a seashore road near Highway 26 to prevent land crabs from being "road-kill."

These volunteers, about 10 of whom were Compal employees' children, wore headlights and carried buckets at night to help female land crabs cross the road, according to a company statement.

"This is a great place for environmental education, helping children realize the concept that lives have no difference in sizes and all need human's care," said Sue Chen, one of the Compal volunteers, who joined the activity with her children.

Jeff Wang, senior manager of the Green Sustainability Office at Compal, said it is enterprises' unshirkable responsibility to improve Taiwanese people's awareness of environmental protection.

"We hope small steps such as volunteer services and donations will encourage conservation workers in Kenting, attract more volunteers and localize the protection activity for land crabs in the area," he said.

Since 2011, Compal has donated a total of 50 light-emitting diode (LED) headlights to the park's conservation workers to improve their visibility when protecting land crabs at night, the statement said.

3M Co., a U.S.-based diversified manufacturer, also donated 20 reflective guideboards and bracelets to remind car drivers of the appearance of conservation workers on the road, preventing them from car accidents, it said.

(By Jeffrey Wu)