Video Credit: AsiaWire
This is the moment an abandoned bear cub found wandering a jungle hungry and alone and rescued by conservationists is about to return home to the wild in a Black Hawk helicopter.
Female Formosan black bear (Ursus thibetanus formosanus) cub ‘Buni’ weighed just 11 lbs when she was spotted near Nanan Falls in Hualien County’s Zhuoxi Township in East Taiwan on 13th July last year.
She is now a healthy 94 lbs and has become the island’s first black bear reintroduction following her release today (30th April).
Picture Credits: AsiaWire & AsiaWire / TBBCA & AsiaWire / Mei-Hsiu Hwang & AsiaWire / Forestry Bureau
Taiwan’s Endemic Species Research Institute in central Nantou County took in Buni on 6th August 2018 after the Forestry Bureau monitored the lone cub and noticed it was not being cared for by a mother.
Rangers and experts with the Taiwan Black Bear Conservation Association found the bear to be in poor physical health and afflicted by numerous ailments. They decided to bring Buni in for captive breeding and began planning for her eventual release.
She was around three to four months old at the time and is believe to have either been abandoned by her mother or lost her way in the forest.
Video Credit: AsiaWire
Buni spent four months successfully gaining weight and increasing in size and strength inside an isolated enclosure at the research institute before being moved to a wilderness training facility in December last year.
There she was taught critical survival skills such as foraging and hunting – but in the end made friends with a hen she was supposed to eat.
The chicken was later dubbed ‘Xiongmaji’ – or ‘Bear Mum Chicken’ – and images of the pair together went viral earlier this year.
Importantly, however, Buni has learnt how to avoid humans and was deemed fit enough for reintroduction in early April following her final check-up.
On the day of her release, Buni’s crate was put into a Black Hawk helicopter and she was flown 40 minutes back to the forests where she was found.
Conservationists have fitten Buni with a GPS collar in order to monitor her movements, but it is expected to fall off by itself after a year.
The Forestry Bureau has urged members of the public to report back any sightings of Buni but have warned against disturbing the bear as she gets used to her surroundings.
The bureau said it hopes Taiwan’s first-ever black bear reintroduction will help increase the wild population of the animal, which is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN’s Red List.