No one knows how many bears are left in Taiwan

No one knows how many bears are left in Taiwan
Formosan_black_bear_-_Chiang_Mai_Zoo.jpg: Papa Novemberderivative work: Mariomassone (talk) 23:11, 15 January 2012 (UTC) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]
Asian Black Bear, Chiang Mai Zoo, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

In the foothills leading to Dasyueshan National Park in eastern Taiwan, Mei-Hsiu Hwang points to the pear, tea and betel nut plantations patchworking the slopes.

“All this used to be bear habitat,” she says. In particular, the Formosan black bear, a large omnivore native to the high, clouded mountains that run down the spine of Taiwan.

Hwang, associate professor and director of the Institute of Wildlife Conservation at Taiwan’s National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, is likely the world’s foremost expert on this species.

But when she first started to study the huge mammals as part of her PhD in 1996, she says her friends and acquaintances reacted with shock.

“They’d say, ‘Do we have bears in Taiwan? We never had bears. Do we still have bears?'” she recalls.

More than two decades later, the black bear is rapidly becoming a symbol for Taiwan.

The mascot of Taipei City is a