INTO THE WILD – THE WILDLIFE OF TAIWAN
Taiwan is a haven for flora and fauna and a paradise for wildlife-watchers. Some of it is also easy to see – especially as a cyclist quietly winding your way along the country’s backroads. Pedal Taiwan’s Chris has the highlights:
Whether in the inhospitable high mountains of Yushan National Park, in the lush forests of the country’s interior or on the Pacific Coast, Taiwan is home to some fantastic wildlife.
Almost 20% of the country is protected, so your best chance to see things lies in these National Parks, but with such a vast range of habitats – snow can fall on the high mountains, whereas Kenting in the south is almost tropical – the biodiversity is staggering. Many of these species live here and nowhere else, so here are the things to look out for:
Taiwanese Black Bear
Although unfortunately it is extremely unlikely you’ll come across one, these bears have been voted as Taiwan’s national animal – so we had to include them! These endangered and heavily protected bears have a distinctive white collar, and whilst your chances of seeing them are almost zero, they have been spotted in the mountains of Taiwan’s National Parks.
Formosan Rock Macaques
Similar in appearance to their more famous, hot-spring-dwelling Japanese counterparts, this monkey – again a species unique to the island – used to roam freely across Taiwan. Human encroachment has sadly restricted their range to the mountains, but numbers are once again growing, making a sighting a real possibility. Our best chance will come on Days 4 and 5 of the Pedal Taiwan tour when we head up to the high central mountains.
One of the first things you’ll notice when pedalling through Taiwanese countryside and forest, or along its coastline is the abundance of birdlife. 338 species have been officially recognised and of these 10 are found nowhere else on earth. This includes the Mikado Pheasant, the national bird of Taiwan and one of the most striking of all the birds in Southeast Asia.
Of the 76 species of reptiles recorded in Taiwan, 23 can be found nowhere else. This includes the fantastically named Taiwan Slug-Eating Snake, Lanyu Scaly-toed Gecko and the Black Odd-scaled Snake. A few of the country’s snakes are venomous, including the Chinese Cobra and the Chinese Green Tree Viper, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll see them – we’re much more likely to see freshwater turtles and lizards (such as the endemic Japalura above) instead.
Under the Sea
During your time down in Kenting at the end of the Pedal Taiwan tour there’s a great chance you’ll see some of Taiwan’s underwater wildlife. From tropical fish to sea turtles and whales to dolphins, the seas are buzzing with creatures – fuelled by currents flowing in from the Pacific. So be sure to grab a snorkel or book a boat trip!
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