People should pay more attention to wildlife conservation and forest protection, bear expert Hwang Mei-hsiu (黃美秀) said yesterday.
Hwang — an associate professor at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology’s Institute of Wildlife Conservation — issued the call at a book signing in Taipei as she recounted her involvement in rescuing and in April releasing a Formosan black bear cub into wild.
In her newly published Chinese-language book, Bear Cub Returning Home: The Lessons We Have Learned from the Nanan Bear (小熊回家:南安小熊教我們的事), Hwang, known as “Bear Mother” for her efforts to rescue black bears, recounted her experience treating the cub.
In July last year, the cub was spotted wandering alone near the Nanan Waterfall (南安瀑布) in Hualien County’s Jhuosi Township (卓溪), with its mother nowhere to be seen.
It was only three or four months old and quite weak at the time, and Hwang spent nearly nine months working with members of the Taiwan Black Bear Conservation Association, the Taipei Zoo and the Council of Agriculture to treat it and train it to survive in the wild.
On April 30, it was taken by helicopter from its shelter at the council’s research station in Taichung to be released in Hualien.
A NextTV crew — who captured exclusive footage of the release — drew controversy after Hwang wrote on Facebook that they boarded the helicopter, while some of the cub’s carers climbed to the release point.
Of the 131 parcels of wild fruit and plants sent to the cub, 73 percent were donated by members of the public, one of whom shaped plants into a cake to celebrate the cub’s first birthday, Hwang said.
Formosan black bears are a “star species” in Taiwan, given that so many mascots are based on it, she said.
However, they are at risk of going extinct, numbering only 300 to 600, Hwang said.
The cub’s release is “a momentary victory” in bear conservation, and it draws more attention to forest protection, she said.
Bear conservation cannot succeed overnight and she is endeavoring to improve conservation work in the nation to attract more young people, Hwang added.
The publisher said it would hold more signing events in Taichung, Chiayi County and Kaohsiung through next month.
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