Thu, Sep 13, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Seven bears cared by team of experts

‘COMMENDED’:The team succeeded in guarding the animals from mental and physical problems stemming from long-term captivity, earning international praise

By Jason Pan  /  Staff Reporter

Yang Jia-dong, third right, director of the Council of Agriculture’s Endemic Species Research Institute, and members of the institute’s Low Altitude Experimental Station participate in a news conference in Taipei on Tuesday to introduce the seven bears that they take care of.

Photo: CNA

A team of wildlife researchers and veterinarians on Tuesday said it nursed rescued bears back to health by applying a novel method that involves environmental enrichment, introduction of natural elements and promotion of behavioral diversity.

The team at the Council of Agriculture’s Endemic Species Research Institute (ESRI) has made progress with the seven bears under its care in a project that began last year, institute director Yang Jia-dong (楊嘉棟) said.

Four of the bears are Formosan black and the others are Asian black bears, which their original owners had imported as cubs from other countries, Yang said.

The bears are 16 to 35 years old, he said, adding that the Formosan black bears were found in the wild injured or caught in traps, and the others were abandoned by their owners.

The animals were taken to the institute’s Low Altitude Experimental Station, located in the mountains near an Aboriginal village in central Taiwan, Yang said.

“During exchange visits and presentations of results at international forums, our work with the bears received high praise from scientists and wildlife conservationists from other nations. They commended our research team and the advanced level of rehabilitation that stimulates and diversifies the bears’ natural behavior,” he said.

Bears are highly intelligent animals capable of thought, and they can solve problems and have complicated emotional and psychological states; their natural habitats cover hundreds of kilometers, said Lin Yen-po (林彥博), a station researcher.

“However, we see bears kept in zoos, and long-term captivity results in abnormal behavior, like walking back and forth repeatedly, and other actions that indicate that they are suffering from mental and physical problems. We want to protects the bears at the station from that,” Lin said.

The team last year put together animal trainers, wildlife specialists and veterinarians to implement rehabilitation programs specific to each bear, such as introducing materials to mimic natural elements and encouraging the animals to explore the surrounding area, play with toys, grasp trees and search for food, Lin added.

The team constructed elevated wooden platforms for bears to climb and made swings and hammocks from discarded fire hoses, on which the bears take naps or sleep at night, Lin said.

The bears have become healthier and more active, and avoided mental problems and abnormal behaviors, Lin added.

Animal behavior trainer Hsieh Ming-ying (謝明穎) said she gained the trust of several bears, and taught games and played with them.

This diversified the bears’ behavior and helped Hsieh and the veterinarians conduct health checkups and treat injuries without needing to anesthetize the animals, she said.

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