Guanwu is the home of the “little cloud and mist fairy”, the Guanwu Salamander (Hynobius fuca). In spring, as the sakura cherry blossoms of Shei-pa National Park’s Wuling area coquettishly compete for attention, the reserved elegance of the pale yellow Mountain Litsea (Litsea cubeba, ‘Makao’ in Atayal language) welcomes the Guanwu Salamander after their winter slumber in the Guanwu area and the researchers commissioned by the national park headquarters get ready to methodically explore the ecological mysteries of Guanwu.
The national park headquarters pointed out that the Guanwu Salamander was formally announced as a new amphibian species in an international periodical in 2008 and it was listed as an endangered species by the Council of Agriculture in the same year July. The Guanwu Salamander, which lives at elevations over 1,300 meters in the central and northern Xue Mountain range, lives at the lowest elevation of all Taiwan’s five species of salamander and, to date, no evidence of sympatric distribution of Guanwu Salamander and other species of salamander has been found. The Guanwu Salmander's preferred habitat is the moist floor layer of mixed coniferous and broadleaf forests and it is very fussy about its living environment, requiring flowing clean water and 70~90% ambient humidity and temperature of 8-15℃. Guanwu salamander are nocturnal, usually hiding under cover during the day, such as rotting wood or rocks, only emerging to feed at night, eating larva of woodlice, ground beetles, larvae of mosquitoes and flies and spiders, earthworms and slugs etc.
Shei-pa National Park Headquarters Director Lin Qing said the Guanwu Salamander colony is very small and hard to find and they are very sensitive with regards to small changes in their habitat, making them an indicator species for ecological environment quality and the effects of climate change, giving the species high ecological and biodiversity importance. The national park headquarters is currently carrying out investigation and monitoring of this colony with the aim of establishing a long-term observation sample area where on-site conservation work can be conducted.
Visit Guanwu in spring and not only can you enjoy the ever-changing cloud and mist in the morning and evening, the air will also be filled with bird song; peep into the tree branches and you might see a lively Formosan Yuhina (Yuhina brunneiceps), White-eared Sibia (Heterophasia auricularis) or Green-backed Tit (Parus monticolus); of course, the beautiful flowers of Taiwan Heloniopsis (Heloniopsis umbellate), Mountain Litsea, Taiwan Pieris (Pieris taiwanensis) and Viola formosana etc. can also be admired. Late winter-early spring is also the breeding season of the Guanwu Salamander so visitors to the area in this period will often bump into researchers, who wear vests that make them easily identifiable, attentively carrying out investigation work. If you stop for a while, they will be happy to unveil the mysteries of Guanwu for you and also tell you various secrets of the cloud and mist fairy—the Guanwu salamander.