What’s Behind Pingtung County Offering Bounties on Invasive Species?

by Brian Hioe


Photo Credit: 温文佑/WikiCommons/CC BY-SA 4.0


PINGTUNG COUNTY recently began offering cash rewards for local residents that bring in an invasive vine, as part of an effort to prevent its spread. The vine, Mikania micrantha, is among the world’s 100 most invasive species, and is known for its ability to rapidly spread, even from branchlings, and it smothers native species by blocking access to sunlight. 

A series of events, then, will be held by the Pingtung County government before the Mikania micrantha’s blooming season in the winter. The events will take place in Pingtung and Kaohsiung, with 5 NT exchanged for each kilogram of Mikania micrantha that citizens collect, while some locations set up by the government will allow for. 

This is not the first time that the Pingtung County government has attempted to deal with invasive species using cash bounties. International headlines previously reported on the Pingtung County government offering cash bounties for green iguanas. 

The cash bounties led to controversy, following incidents such as a YouTuber hunting and killing 41 iguanas with his family. However, as it transpired, the YouTuber was comparatively responsible–later on, online videos involved iguanas being detonated with explosives or tortured. 

Photo credit: shankar s./WikiCommons/CC0

Nevertheless, though the Pingtung County government offering cash bounties for lizards, vines, or other invasive species proves bizarre, perhaps ultimately the act can be seen as a neoliberal act. Namely, the Pingtung County government did not want to commit the resources to tackle invasive species through professionals and instead tried to outsource this to the citizenry. 

One notes that there were criticisms of the lizard hunting bounties at the time in that unprofessional hunters could potentially lead to the iguanas further spreading if they scared iguanas from their territory. Likewise, there was little consideration of that unprofessional hunters would probably not cull iguanas in any humane manner. Instead, then, one had the morbid phenomena of animal cruelty for the sake of social media clout. 

Ultimately, then, the phenomenon of the Pingtung County government offering cash bounties for iguanas or vines is rooted in the long-standing phenomenon in Taiwan of cost-cutting by the government at the expense of effectiveness. Often this takes place through the outsourcing of work to contractors, who may have had a history of wrongdoing, or secure public tenders due to corruption. 

Indeed, it is true equipping the citizenry to collect vines and other invasive fauna can be of use in efforts to prevent the spread of invasive species. Yet this practice of offering cash bounties for invasive species may be as part of efforts to turn the general public to take on work the government should be responsible for, as an attempt at outsourcing work.