Wed, Jan 14, 2009 - Page 2 News List

COA touts success in breeding Formosan black bears

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A rare Formosan black bear is seen foraging for food in this undated photo taken with a motion-activated camera by researchers at the Institute of Wildlife Conservation of the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology. The bears are protected by Taiwanese Aborigines, for whom killing them is taboo.

PHOTO: CNA

The Council of Agriculture yesterday touted its success in breeding Formosan black bears.

However, staff at the council’s Endemic Species Research Institute in Nantou County urged the government to allocate more budget and manpower to the conservation of the indigenous Taiwanese species.

“We successfully bred two Formosan black bear cubs in 2007,” said Yang Ji-tsong (楊吉宗), deputy chief of the institute.

Formosan black bears, also known as white-throated bears for the distinctive white V-shape they carry on their chest, are endemic to Taiwan.

The institute began its efforts to protect the rapidly diminishing animals more than a decade ago, Yang said, adding that three successful births have occurred since.

The cubs, named Babai (“800” in Mandarin) and Wubai (“500” in Mandarin), were the offspring of two bears raised in captivity, Yang said, adding that their birth and good health proved that the conservation effort was successful in helping the species proliferate. The cubs’ names are derived from “white chin” (下巴白, xiababai) and “no white” (無白, wubai), Yang said.

Babai and Wubai, both male, were raised by their mother and began living on their own in manmade environments six months ago.

The pair are adapting exceptionally well, Yang said.

Last month, when giant pandas Tuan Tuan (團團) and Yuan Yuan (圓圓) arrived from China, animal rights activists said that while NT$30 million (US$1 million) per year had been allocated to the care of the imported animals, the government only donates about NT$100,000 each year to the care of Formosan black bears.

Yang said that for his team’s conservation efforts, he “feels deeply that the budget and manpower is insufficient.”

In addition to asking the government for more funds, the institute plans to try to elicit funds from the public as well as businesses, Yang said.

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