With Taipei Zoo’s panda cub Yuan Zai (圓仔) gaining wide popularity, the Council of Agriculture announced yesterday that the first specialized exhibition about the Formosan Black Bear will open tomorrow to help the public learn about Taiwan’s unique native bears.
In cooperation with the Taiwan Black Bear Conservation Association (台灣黑熊保育協會), the council’s Endemic Species Research Institute is holding the exhibition at the Conservation Education Center in Nantou County’s Chichi Township (集集鎮).
Interpretation and Education Division assistant researcher Hsieh Chung-fu (謝仲甫) said the Formosan Black Bear is one of eight subspecies of the Asiatic black bear and is endemic to Taiwan, but that it is now endangered and facing a serious threat to its survival mainly caused by habitat degradation, illegal hunting and trapping and human disturbance.
“While 2,000 is considered a ‘safe population’ — to ensure a stable population of the species in the wild — researchers have estimated that there are only about 200 to 600 wild bears in Taiwan,” Hsieh said, adding that the estimated capacity of the nation’s natural habitat for the bears is a population of about 6,000 to 7,000.
Endemic Species Research Institute director Fang Kuo-yun (方國運) said the population could still be restored if it has not dropped too low and that raising the public’s awareness is very important to protect the species.
Hsieh said the exhibition not only shows the public details of the Formosan Black Bear’s biology, diet, growth and the threats to its survival, but also how researchers conduct ecological investigations through methods such as tracking the bears’ footprints or scratch marks, gathering excrement for analysis, or even trapping the bears and attaching satellite tags.
Although the Formosan Black Bear is the largest carnivore in Taiwan, “up to 80 percent of the bears’ diet is vegetation,” Hsieh said, adding that the exhibition also tries to extinguish some common myths about the species.
Taipei Zoo Director Jason Chin (金仕謙) advised the center to consider uploading to YouTube short documentary videos about two to three minutes long depicting the growth of the bear cubs to attract the public’s attention.