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Turtle Hub 2.0 | Chen Peng-yu

  • Date:2022-02-16
Turtle Hub 2.0 | Chen Peng-yu

Chinese Name:海龜環教基地2.0 | 陳芃諭
Date of Birth: May 23, 1990
Place of Birth: Sanchong District, New Taipei City, Taiwan
Did You Know?
Chen Peng-yu is a marine environmental educator and co-founder of Islander Divers, Turtle Spot Taiwan, and independent bookstore Linger Bookstore. A skilled writer and environmental educator, her goal is to “bring people closer to the sea.” Originally a city girl from the Greater Taipei area, she has been set up in Xiao Liuqiu since 2015, observing and recording sea turtles and educating others about them with her studio partner, sparking widespread interest across society.

Chen graduated from the Department of Political Science at National Chengchi University. While in college, she took part in the environmental activities organized by the Society of Wilderness, which sparked her curiosity about and concern for the environment. During her summer vacation in 2010, Chen took on a working holiday on Jiangjunao Islet in Penghu, an experience that opened up the marine world to her, marking the start of a life inseparable from the sea. It was also there that she met her future partner Su Huai.

After graduating, the couple traveled around the world and saw the how people in different places interacted with the ocean. They found much to learn, expanding their vision and imagination of the ocean. While in Australia, they met some travelers from Taiwan who were eager to spend a lot of money to catch a glimpse of the Great Barrier Reef, but were complete strangers to seas around Taiwan. This experience sowed the seeds wanting to familiarize more people with Taiwan’s marine environment. After returning to Taiwan in 2015 at the end of their trip, Chen and Su set up the Islander Divers to “bring people closer to the sea and make the sea part of life.” Their core concept has been to help people better understand the sea through text, video, and diving courses.

When they visited Xiao Liuqiu at the end of 2015, they were surprised to find there were so many sea turtles around the island. Curiosity about the local marine life, they decided to stay on the island to observe the sea turtles. In the process of seeking out information, they found that the shape, number, and arrangement of scales on each turtle’s face is different, and that this feature is as difficult to change as a person’s fingerprints and similarly able to identify individuals. And so, by taking clear pictures of the turtles’ faces, they began to observe and record their environment, write stories about what they observed, and share all of this with the locals on a community platform, causing quite a stir. In June 2017, Chen, Su, and some friends with backgrounds in biology set up a Facebook group called “Turtle Spot Taiwan” to spread the word, inviting people to upload their photos of the left and right sides of sea turtles’ faces and then using photo-ID facial recognition to identify individual sea turtles, hoping to create a database of sea turtles in Xiao Liuqiu and the whole of Taiwan, helping us understand the sea turtles that live with us in Taiwan.

In the course of their observations, they also found many interesting stories about the sea turtles. For example, it was observed and recorded that a mature female turtle had her left foreleg tagged. From the small metal tag, labeled R36192, they learned that it was born in a place called Yap, some 2000 kilometers from Taiwan, and swam all that way to make a life on Xiao Liuqiu. They also recorded a sea turtle whose shell was suspected to have been injured by a ship, and his recovery process served to demonstrate to everyone the sea turtles’ determination to survive.

To better share the ocean and let more people know about the stories of sea turtles observed and recorded in Xiao Liuqiu, in January 2018, the two rented an old house on the island to start the island’s only bookstore, Linger Bookstore. The books chosen for the bookstore focus on the ocean and the environment, and they also display the works of marine artists, host NGO markets, and sell environmentally friendly products. They also develop photos of Xiao Liuqiu’s sea turtles as postcards for promotion and sale.

In the Ministry of Culture’s Turtle Hub Sea Turtle Education Base plan, publicity materials for sea turtle education have been produced, and young people who are interested in the area have been trained about sea turtles and the stories of Xiao Liuqiu, and to talk on the streets on weekends during peak tourist season in the hope that travelers who come to the island for the sea turtles can get to know them better. In the future, Chen and company will continue to operate on the island, using whatever ways they can to help more people get to know the sea turtles and bring people closer to the sea.