Site description (2001 baseline):

Site location and context
Extent of this site: Lanyu (also known as Orchid Island) is located off the southeastern Taiwan coast in the Pacific Ocean, 40 miles south of Green Island, 49 miles southeastern of Taitung, and 41 miles east of Eluanbi, at the southern tip of Taiwan. It is a volcanic island formed by the extrusion of lava between Taiwan and Luzon Island of the Philippines. This is a typical volcanic-formed oceanic island; the mountain range on the island is steep and lofty, rising to over 300 m. The island is surrounded on all sides by coral reefs; the biogeography is of the Asian-Australian zone, and biodiversity is high. Rainfall is copious, producing a typical tropical rainforest climate. This island has never been connected to the mainland. Over 30 endemic plants were evolved on the island. In addition, there are wildlife of tropical characteristics including birds, butterflies, and molluscs. The ocean around Lanyu is clear with hardly any pollution. The fish species and coral reefs form the most fantastic landscape within the seas near Taiwan. Nearly 3,000 members of the Tao tribe (or called the Yami tribe) who both farm and fish on the island. This is a nurturing environment for the unique culture and intact Tao traditions found here including the traditional ceremonies, the mysterious symbols and the nationally treasured culture of wooden boats. In 1877, Lanyu was formally included in Taiwan’s territory.

Key biodiversity
IBA A2 criterion species: Ryukyu Scops Owl is an endemic subspecies to Taiwan. It is estimated that 750-1,000 individuals live on this island. • A total of 181 bird species has been recorded here, including 47 resident species and 42 common migrants. • Numbers of the Formosan Green Pigeon have recently decreased. Chestnut-eared Bulbul is the largest member in the virgin forests and the tropical broadleaf forests are important habitat for the Black Paradise Flycatcher and the Large Brown Cuckoo Dove. • A maximum of 19 White-faced Shearwaters and 20 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters has been recorded.

Non-bird biodiversity: • At this site, 166 species of butterflies in eight families have been recorded, among which most are tropical species, including the endemic Danis schaeffera. In addition, there are 19 species in common with the Philippines that do not occur on the Taiwan Island, such as Troides magellanus. Currently the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute is conducting a plan for raising the plant Aristolochia kankauenis which is an important source of food for the butterfly. • There are over 900 plant species, 219 of which are endemic. • In March 2000, the Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae was sighted.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
• There are large volumes of tourists. • Pesticides are used on agriculture. • Lanyu is a storage site for nuclear wastes. From 1982 to 1996, Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) has stored 97,672 barrels of nuclear wastes. The Lanyu Village government has agreed to allow Taipower to continue using the site for storage of nuclear wastes until 2002 when the site will be moved. • The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), Executive Yuan, has selected the seas southeast of Lanyu for a future disposal site. The site is located between Hsiao Lanyu and the current nuclear waste storage site. • From 1960 to 1981, the Taiwan Forestry Bureau completely modified the forest species over 1,300 ha on the island. • From early times both the Chinese and the Japanese came to Lanyu to collect rare plants and animals, such as Podocarpus costalis, Pemphis acidula, Troides magellanus, Diospyros ferrea, orchids, and tropical fish.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Lobbying activities: • Since 1988, the Tao have continued to initiate the 220 Drive out the Evil Spirits from Lanyu in opposition to dumping nuclear wastes on the island. Legislation: • The Taiwan Comprehensive Development Plan proposes that Lanyu become a national park. • The draft of the Aboriginal Development Law passed by the Executive Yuan may hopefully allow Lanyu to become the first self-administered aboriginal area in Taiwan.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Lanyu. Downloaded from on 29/02/2024.