Recently, the Dongshi Forest District Office of the Forestry Bureau, the Institute of Wildlife Conservation of the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, the Endemic Species Research Institute (ESRI), the Taipei Zoo, and National Taiwan University (NTU) School of Veterinary Medicine cooperated in a rescue relief mission of an injured wild Formosan Black Bear in the Daxueshan area, where it was transported to the Taipei Zoo for medical treatment and operation. The bear has been successfully returned to the mountains of Daxueshan on November 22, 2018.
Fated to Meet?
Since 2013, Dongshi Forest District Office has commissioned Professor Hwang Mei-Hsiu of the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology to study the Formosan Black Bears in the Daxueshan area, and to set up bear traps to implement capture and release operations. This injured female bear was first captured on October 14 of this year (2018). At the time, the veterinarians found that the upper right canine was broken and the wound was severely infected and full of pus. However, since the overall physical condition of the animal showed no significant problems, the veterinarians conducted a simple wound cleansing and released the bear after implementing a satellite radio transmitter and marking it with an ear tag.
Then on October 28, the same bear was captured near the original trap. This time it appeared to be physically very weak and was unresponsive to external stimuli. When provided with food it was found that it wanted to feed but was unable to chew. The team of researchers and veterinarians speculated that it might had been unable to eat due to the tooth injury found last time, and it had gone into another trap for food due to extreme hunger after half a month. The veterinarian team was of the opinion that based on the current situation of the black bear, if released back to the wild, its situation would likely to continue to deteriorate and finally lead to death. Therefore the research team decided to inform the Dongshi Forest District Office to assess the possibility of rescue and medical treatment.
Expert Meeting Decided to Intervene and Provide Rescue
On October 29, Dongshi Forest District Office invited two veterinarians from ESRI, the low-altitude experimental research station, and Professor Hwang Mei-Hsiu's research team to conduct a comprehensive evaluation and opinion exchange. They believed that since the Formosan Black Bear is an endangered species and has an iconic conservation status, in addition to the data from October 14, which showed that it had no other fatal diseases, and this female bear is an adult with a record of reproduction, it is very likely that immediate intervention to help it with its tooth injury would save its life, and it might even breed more black bear babies. It was decided that the rescue operation for the black bear would begin immediately on the morning of October 30.
All Units Mobilize for Relay Rescue
At 6 o'clock in the morning on October 30, 13 forest rangers and colleagues from the Anmashan Station of the Dongshi Forest District Office were mobilized and set off for the rescue of black bear in the mountain together with the research team and veterinarians from the Pingtung University of Science and Technology. As the trap was located in a steep location inaccessible by car, a specially-made steel barrel was used to transport the bear, both for the safety of the personnel and for convenience in transportation. On the way, everyone used a wheelbarrow and stretcher to carry the barrel on the back or shoulders, after around three-and-a-half hours, the bear was successfully taken to the road and immediately sent off to the Taipei City Zoo in an air-conditioned van. During the transportation process, three veterinarians from the Dongshi Forest District Office and the National Taiwan University Veterinary Department were on hand to monitor the situation. Around 5 o'clock in the evening, they arrived at the Taipei Zoo Quarantine Center and the black bear was successfully put inside the quarantine cage for observation. When weighing the animal, it was also found that it had lost 7 kg (11%) of its body weight in only half a month from October 14 to October 30.
After the black bear recuperated in the zoo for a period of time, nearly 20 people from the zoo veterinary office were mobilized on November 8th, and practicing dentists were invited to attend the consultation to perform dental treatment and general health examination on the black bear.
"Rehabilitation and Discharge
When at the zoo, because this black bear had never been in captive, it was particularly nervous and wary, and due to the toothache, it also suffered from poor appetite. The zoo tried its best to prepare soft food, various fruits, and redecorated the cage environment to make it feel more at ease. The Dongshi Forest District Office and black bear research team also provided many of the common wild fruits of the Daxueshan region to enhance the bear’s appetite, in the hopes that it would recover as soon as possible.
The postoperative examination data showed that the black bear had no other systemic diseases except for the dental wound, and after confirming that the wound had healed well on November 22, the bear was transported back to the Daxueshan area for wild release. The black bear research team will also continue to track its follow-up through the radio transmitter signals.
First Wild Formosan Black Bear Rescue Provided Many Valuable Experiences
In the past, such large wild animals often hide in the depths of the forest when in poor health, and many were on the verge of death or have already died when discovered. This time, due to the Formosan Black Bear research program, it seemed to be fate that it had the opportunity to issue two distress signals. It was also the first time for the government department to cooperate together to launch a large-scale wildlife rescue plan, from notification, assessment, rescue, medical treatment to wild release, all units were dedicated to providing various resources and have gained a lot of valuable experience from this occasion.
From Formosan Black Bears to other wild animals and plants, all are important members of Taiwan's mountains and forests. The Forestry Bureau and its forest district offices are the main competent authorities in conservation and they pay considerable attention to the protection of habitats and conservation of species. This time, in the face of the wildlife rescue operation, they gave 100% without holding back and offered full support. Through the rescue relief mechanism this time, the resources of other institutions and schools have also been connected together. The conservation community has also established a good interaction model with the veterinary community. It is hoped that the horizontal inter-resource communication will become smoother in the future and launch a new force behind the conservation in Taiwan.