Pandas from China have become superstars in Taiwan, while conservation efforts for the indigenous Formosan black bear, which is on the brink of extinction, receive scant attention. Hwang Mei-hsiu, head of Pingtung University of Science and Technology’s Institute of Wildlife Conservation, says that a limited budget makes it hard for conservation research on Formosan black bears to be done effectively, and research shows that the bears’ survival is being threatened. If more funding could be attained, and with greater public awareness and advocacy, the public would place more importance on Formosan black bear conservation, Hwang says.
Many people worry whether Formosan black bears pose danger to humans, but almost never ask whether pandas hurt people. A national panda craze is surging, which makes someone like Hwang, who has devoted herself to researching Formosan black bears, feel justified to comment on how this bear species typically takes evasive action when it detects the scent of humans, rather than hurting or attacking them. On the other hand, the humans’ destruction of the Formosan black bear’s habitat and poaching severely threaten its survival and show how the public lacks an adequate understanding of Formosan black bear conservation.
At least 2,000 Formosan black bears are needed to maintain a stable population, but current estimates show that there are only between 200 and 600 of the bears in the wild. Hwang says this proves that the survival of the entire species is in critical danger, making the work of conservationists more crucial than ever. Working with a restricted budget, however, forces researchers traveling into mountainous areas to carry their own equipment because they cannot afford to hire porters, and as it is difficult to find research assistants, the work of conservationists is also under plenty of pressure.
1. on the brink of idiom
瀕臨；在邊緣 (bin1 lin2; zai4 bian1 yuan2)
例: We are on the brink of disaster.
2. surge v.
洶湧；澎湃 (xiong1 yong3; peng2 pai4)
例: Her passions surged as she listened to the poem.
3. poaching n.
偷獵；偷捕 (tou1 lie4; tou1 bu3)
例: Poaching is seriously threatening rhino populations in Africa.
Huang says that of the 15 Formosan black bears she has caught and released for research purposes, as many as eight of them had severed limbs from being caught in jaw traps, exemplifying the prevalent danger that such traps pose to wildlife in Taiwan. Even the Formosan black bear is suffering from the traps and under immense pressure from being hunted, which is hard to accept, Huang says, adding that even though funding is limited and there is a lack of researchers, she will persevere with her research and hopes that conservation efforts for the species will prove useful in the long run.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)