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Documentary Film Recording a Formosan Black Bear’s Return to the Forest, the Journey of Mulas from Rescue to Release, is Now Available to the Public for the First Time

In July 2019, the Taitung Forest District Office received information from the Tuapuu Tribal Community of Guangyuan Village in Haiduan Township, Taitung County that a solitary Formosan black bear cub had been found. Despite its inexperience, the Taitung Forest District Office team immediately embraced the responsibility of caring for the bear cub and quickly pulled together a variety of administrative resources. As a direct result, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Ground in Taitung was established.

After ten careful months of joint efforts by groups from both the public and private sectors to hand-rear the bear cub, it eventually returned to excellent health. Named Mulas, the female cub passed all of the necessary evaluations for release and was successfully returned to her mountain forest home. For more than a year after her return to the wild, Mulas wore a satellite tracking collar that sent back regular signals. For the first time, valuable and groundbreaking ecological data on the long-term activity and behavior of a Formosan black bear was recorded. This marked an important milestone in the conservation of Formosan black bears in Taiwan.

Today (October 4, 2021), the Taitung Forest District Office is officially releasing the documentary titled "Mulas Kulumaha! Back to the Wild," which was filmed over a ten month period and produced over the course of the past year. The documentary is a complete record of Mulas' incredible 295 days in care. With rare footage including the day she was found and the remarkable rehabilitation process that ensued, right up to the emotional day of her release, this groundbreaking documentary also charts the first time in Formosan black bear conservation history that cubs from different litters were kept in captivity together. More importantly, the recovery and data analysis results of Mulas' satellite tracking collar are also explained. The Taitung Forest District Office hopes that this complete story of Mulas' journey home can provide the public with a better understanding of Formosan black bear conservation and wildlife rescue work.

Fan Mei-Lin, Chief Secretary of the Council of Agriculture, and Lin Hwa-Ching, Director General of the Forestry Bureau, attended the film premiere to witness this important conservation breakthrough. Members of tribal communities, experts and academics, as well as representatives from various departments who participated in the various stages of reporting, care and release were also present to look back on the joint experience of this extraordinary operation. Director General Lin Hwa-Ching pointed out that the successful release and tracking of Mulas was the first of its kind in Taiwan, and stressed its significance as a historical moment in the conservation of Formosan black bears.

In its role as an ecological conservation administrative agency, the Taitung Forest District Office boldly took on the formidable and unprecedented challenges of resettling, caring for and returning Mulas to the wild, shouldering nearly all of the vast responsibilities involved. The District Office accomplished this by upgrading its relevant functions and carefully integrating resources. The Forestry Bureau also gave its strongest support during the entire process. In the future, they will continue to implement the action plan for endangered wildlife conservation through public-private collaboration and cross-regional cooperation to help save Taiwan’s endangered species.

According to Chief Secretary Fan Mei-Lin, the successful release of Mulas, the bear cub from Guangyuan Village in 2020, and Umas, a male bear from Kanding in 2021 who was also rescued and cared for, is the result of the Forestry Bureau's tireless efforts to establish a national wildlife rescue network and implement a system to help all endangered species in Taiwan. The Council of Agriculture has also provided the utmost support in terms of funding, with a total amount of NT$317.74 million provided since 2019. This has covered the expenses of vital ecological services, and enabled the undertaking of important population surveys, key habitat improvement schemes, significant road kill prevention methods, and conservation advocacy for 22 endangered species. The Formosan black bear is a key target of this endangered species conservation program, and a total investment of NT$85.21 million has been provided over the past three years.

It is important to note, however, that the long-term conservation of Formosan black bears cannot be fully accomplished by one, single agency. Its success requires the joint participation of the government and civil societies, as well as the general public. Chief Secretary Fan Mei-Lin and Director General Lin Hwa-Ching also expressed their sincere gratitude to the attending organizations and individuals for their important contributions to the rescue and release of Mulas.

During the event, the Taitung Forest District Office also explained the important information that was retrieved from Mulas’ recovered collar. By analyzing the extensive data and satellite details on Mulas' movements, it was found that the first month after the bear’s release was a critical period of exploration. Mulas actively searched for a suitable habitat, with great changes in elevation and levels of activity. In the first month, Mulas was estimated to have roamed more than twenty square kilometers. In contrast, during the three to six month period after her release, Mulas had adapted to the local environment, established her own territory, and remained within a more confined area. Her movements became more concentrated and she covered less than 2.5 square kilometers per month. It was also found that Mulas' activities, habitat use, and area of roaming were closely related to food source conditions and seasonal temperature changes. During the cooler weather of winter and spring, Mulas’ movements decreased and her range of activities significantly reduced. In total, the tracking period lasted for 405 days, which is the longest and most complete monitoring data ever collected for a Formosan black bear after its release. Crucially, this pioneering analysis can be used as an invaluable reference point for subsequent bear release and conservation strategies.

The organizer of the documentary premiere, Director Wu Chang-You of the Taitung Forest District Office, said that for ten days and many sleepless nights after receiving the initial reports of the solitary bear cub, the mother bear did not return for her cub. As a result, within a very short period of time, the Taitung Forest District Office had to quickly organize a highly-skilled and dedicated team to take care of the cub. They immediately contacted a range of institutions across Taiwan and gathered experts to complete this highly challenging task that involved care, medical treatment, relocation for rehabilitation, and, ultimately, Mulas’ release. These institutions included the Taipei Zoo, Endemic Species Research Institute (ESRI), National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST), WildOne Wildlife Conservation Association, Formosan Wild Sound Conservation Science Center, and the Taiwan Black Bear Conservation Association. Each step of this important journey has been captured in the documentary. By premiering this documentary in Taipei, it is hoped that this vital moment in Formosan black bear conservation history can be made widely known to the public. In addition, through this film, the District Office would like to show its recognition and sincere gratitude to everyone involved in the rescue, care, medical treatment, rehabilitation, and release of Mulas.

After the launch of "Mulas Kulumaha! Back to the Wild" at today's press conference, the Taitung Forest District Office will hold a public premiere of the documentary on October 23 at the cub's "native land"— the Tuapuu Tribal Community of Guangyuan Village in Haiduan Township, Taitung County. In addition to thanking the tribal members for their help and support in ecological conservation and forest patrol, it is hoped that community members and local students can also participate in the premiere of the documentary. The story of Mulas begins with the tribal communities, and their importance cannot be understated. The Taitung Forest District Office hopes to share the key topics of Formosan black bear conservation, human-bear encounters, and environmental friendliness through the documentary. It is also hoped that more tribal partners will join hands in the future and work together for the good of the environment, its people, and its animals.
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