Bunun volunteers have been scouting for a location in Hualien County where a Formosan black bear cub could be released back into the wild, the Forestry Bureau’s Hualien Forest District Office said on Thursday.
The cub caused a media sensation in July last year, when visitors to Nanan Waterfall (南安瀑布) in Hualien’s Jhuosi Township (卓溪) saw it wandering alone.
Worried that it would not be able to survive, the office took the cub in and has been training it in preparation for its reintroduction to the wild with the help of black bear expert Hwang Mei-hsiu (黃美秀), office director Yang Jui-fen (楊瑞芬) said.
Photo courtesy of National Pingtung University of Science and Technology professor Huang Mei-hsiu and provided by the Forestry Bureau’s Hualien Forest District Office
A final date for the cub’s release has not yet been set, Yang said.
To find a future home for the cub, the bureau has enlisted a group of Bunun volunteers from Nanan Village, Yang said.
A suitable location should have ample food sources and be so far removed from human activity that ideally the bear would never encounter humans again, except for planned contacts with scientists and forestry officials, she said.
The volunteer team mapped six routes in December last year and systematically explored each one in the following months, team leader Lin Yung-hung (林泳浤) said, adding that the community had named the cub “Buni.”
Going as far as Sinkang Mountain (新康山), the team catalogued plant and animal species that black bears could eat, removing bear traps along the way, he said.
The treks had been arduous and his knees were making popping sounds by the final survey, which was completed on Wednesday, Lin said.
The surveys were successful in identifying multiple areas that contain natural food sources for bears and volunteers found signs of wild Formosan black bear activity, including bear droppings and one live sighting, he said.
“The Bunun consider black bears our friends, and hunting them is a taboo and considered as serious as taking a human life,” Lin said.
A hunter who accidentally kills a black bear would be barred from entering the village for four to five days, while an entire tribe would seek resettlement to avoid the ritual taint from slaying a bear prior to harvest, he said.
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