Taipei Zoo claims ownership of Formosan black bear cub


TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Taipei Zoo declared yesterday that it has the ownership of a Formosan black bear cub born in captivity in the Shoushan Zoo in Kaohsiung, based on an agreement between the two zoos.

According to Yang Chien-jen, deputy curator of the Taipei Zoo, when the zoo sent a male Formosan black bear, Shiao San, to the Shoushan Zoo to mate with a female bear of the same species in July last year, the two zoos signed an agreement that any cubs reared as a result of the conservation program will belong to the Taipei Zoo.

“There is no question as to who the bear cub belongs to. It is now up to veterinary specialists to determine the best time to transfer the cub to the Taipei Zoo,” Yang said.

He added that it will take about six months for a bear cub to become weaned, and that the Taipei Zoo will wait until then to get the cub from Kaohsiung.

The controversy over the cub’s ownership arose after news reports said the Kaohsiung zoo management intended to keep the new-born female bear at least until it is two years old.

The Formosan black bear is an endangered animal species. Although there are more than a dozen such animals in Taiwan’s zoos, most of the female bears are too old to reproduce.

Zoo keepers in Taiwan agree that a reproduction program for captive Formosan black bears would be just as difficult as a similar program for captive pandas in China. The two-month-old baby bear, born March 12, weighs 2.5 kilograms. It has not yet been given a name.

Taipei city councilor Chien Yu-yen, who visited the Shoushan Zoo last week to see the cub, said she thinks animal-loving children in Taipei and Kaohsiung should be given the right to name the bear.

She also said the Taipei Zoo has a better living environment for the cub, because the bear enclosure in the Shoushan Zoo is too narrow and dark, and not beneficial for the growth of the young bear.

The Formosan black bear, a species of the Ursidae family, is endemic to Taiwan. As the largest land animal in Taiwan, it can grow up to 1.6 meter in length and can have a maximum weight of 200 kilograms. The animals are usually found in Taiwan’s forests at elevations of between 1,000 and 3500 meters. They are also known as “white-throated bears” because of the V-shaped splotch of white fur on their chest.

The Formosan black bears do not hibernate in the winter, though they might move to lower elevations in order to forage for food.

Winter is their mating season, with females typically bearing one to three cubs at a time after eight to nine months of pregnancy. Cubs become independent after one year. The natural life span of Formosan black bears is about 30 years.