When I first saw Australian coins, I immediately noticed the animals on it. I have always found the people, buildings or species on money interesting, especially animals or plants from different countries. Usually the species are unique in that place to be put onto the currency. For instance there are echidna, superb lyrebird, platypus, kangaroos and emu on Australian coins (I wonder why are there no koalas?). In Taiwan, we also have animals on our bill, but not on coins. However, even though these species are endemic to Taiwan, not all of them are in good conservation status.
On our NTD$ 500 bill is Formosan sika deer (Cervus nippon taiouanus), an endemic subspecies in Taiwan. The wild population of Formosan sika deer has been extinct in 1969 due to hunting and habitat loss. A restoration program has been commenced since 1984 in Kenting National Park, in southern Taiwan. Sika deer have been reintroduced to Kenting National Park and nearby areas since 1994, and a survey in 2010 shows wild populations have more than 1000 individuals. However, since the wild deer populations increased, human-deer conflicts also increased. Deer behaviors, including stripping barks, foraging and rubbing antler, might cause the death of trees, leading to crop destructions. During an interview survey done in 2015, about half of the people thought sika deer caused damage to crops. While 18.4% of the respondents actually suffered crop damage (e.g. fruit trees, sweat potato, herbage…etc.) caused by sika deer (Yen et al., 2015). Another issue is that Formosan sika deer is not labeled as wildlife species by the government. Therefore, they are not controlled by the law. And even though the restoration program has been operated for 30 years, not many local people understand the context or want to participate in it.
Appearing on NTD$ 1000 bill is the Mikado Pheasant (Syrmaticus mikado), a bird species referred as the national bird of Taiwan. Listed as near threatened in IUCN Red List, Mikado Pheasant is endemic to the mountains of central Taiwan. They live in forests altitude approximately 1600 to 3300 metres, which are relatively undisturbed by humans. Yushan National Park holds the biggest population (approximately 10,000 individuals) of Mikado Pheasant. However, the population is declining outside protected areas due to the pressure caused by hunting and habitat loss because their habitats are recently affected more and more by landslides, road constructions, habitat destruction, and forest activities. There are also concerns about the isolation of some subpopulations within the protected zones. Conservation of Mikado Pheasant is still quite passive, and protections are only provided inside three national parks.
The NTD$2000 bill features the Formosan landlocked salmon (Oncorhynchus masou formosanus), a freshwater endemic glacial relict species known as one of the most southern population of salmon in the northern hemisphere. Formosan landlocked salmon is listed as critically endangered since its populations dropped drastically in the past fifty years due to agricultural and dam establishments. Its population was once limited to only Chichiawan Stream in the Shei-Pa National Park central Taiwan. The conservation of Formosan landlocked salmon started back in 1984. Supported by the government, wild populations have been successfully restored in their native habitat. Their wild population is estimated to rise from 200 to about 3600 individuals. Additionally, several dams were removed to allow the landlocked salmons travel freely in the stream and enable them to swim back to the upstream regions after flushed down by floods during typhoon seasons (Chung et al., 2008). Even so, Formosan landlocked salmon still faces problems such as climate change. Since their nature habitat located in the upstream regions of Tachia River, which is about 1700~1800 metres above sea level, and the water temperature suitable for them is required to be lower than 18°C, rising water temperature will only restrict their distributions in the future.
From these species we know the biodiversity conservation in Taiwan still needs to be improved a lot. Even though we see them every day (on our money), people are not aware of their status. It seems that conservation consciousness isn’t high enough for the people to care about them. Most people know their existence, would be happy to encounter them in the wild, but doesn’t know much about them or want to help their conservation. The same attitude can be seen towards other species as well. Another problem is that basic information is often insufficient even for these endemic species. For instance, the population trend of Mikado Pheasant is unknown. The local communities also don’t participate enough in the protection program such as Formosan sika deer.
Although Taiwan inhabits lots of unique species, they are often unrecognized and unprotected. I hope we can understand them before they are driven to extinction by us. Unfortunately, some already are.
Yen, S.C., Chen, K.H., Wang, Y. and Wang, C.P., 2015. Residents’ attitudes toward reintroduced sika deer in Kenting National Park, Taiwan. Wildlife biology, 21(4), pp.220-226.
Bridgman, C.L., 2002. Habitat use, distribution and conservation status of the mikado pheasant (Syrmaticus mikado) in Taiwan.
Chung, L.C., Lin, H.J., Yo, S.P., Tzeng, C.S., Yeh, C.H. and Yang, C.H., 2008. Relationship between the Formosan landlocked salmon Oncorhynchus masou formosanus population and the physical substrate of its habitat after partial dam removal from Kaoshan Stream, Taiwan. ZOOLOGICAL STUDIES-TAIPEI-, 47(1), p.25.