1. lucrative (adjective) = profitable, profit-making, gainful, moneymaking, well paid. Example: The childcare business is not very lucrative. 2. prior to (phrase)= before; till -->before a particular time or event. Example: Passengers may board the plane twenty minutes prior to (= before) departure. 3. fraction (noun)= a small part of something. Example: Juries often hear only a fraction of the story. 4. cluster (verb) + around something --> to form or gather together. Example: All his grandchildren clustered around him. b) People clustered around the noticeboard to read the exam results. 5. plight (noun) = a dangerous, difficult, or otherwise unfortunate situation. Example: Our problems aren’t much compared with the plight of the flood victims.
Hunted for meat and medicine While habitat loss has been hard on the bears, the biggest threat to Taiwan's largest mammal is illegal hunting. Over recent decades, there's been a growing, lucrative trade in bear parts -- bear meat for the black market and bones, gallbladders and paws for traditional Chinese medicine.
In the past there were strict taboos among indigenous Taiwanese about hunting bears. If you killed one, Hwang says, some tribes even isolated you out of fear you would bring bad luck back to the village.
The dense, mountainous forests in eastern Taiwan make up a large part of the bears' native habitat.
But now, a black bear corpse can be worth as much as $5,000 to a hunter. Studies around Yushan National Park prior to the 1980s found 22% of the area's bears were killed for their meat and body parts. By the 1990s, this had soared to 59%.
Hwang says the solution lies in education. If the market for bear parts and meat can be ended by raising consumer awareness, the animals can be saved. "If there is no market demand, I believe this will lead to less bear killing. This surely will help," she says.
A sign in Taiwan's Dasyueshan National Park warns hikers and tourists to watch out for bears.
Another problem is that, due to bears' large feeding grounds, they regularly stray outside of the protected forests and into the wilds where they are vulnerable. Displaying the GPS data of one adult male on her laptop, Hwang shows us his path over the course of months. "That's the protected forest," she says, pointing to a small square covering just a fraction of his path.
Still, Hwang says there doesn't need to be more protected areas across the island, just better enforcement against illegal hunting. "If all the suitable habitat allowed bears to survive, the current capacity for the whole island is able to have 5,000 to 10,000 individuals," she says. Instead, there are just hundreds. 'More precious than pandas' The only place anyone is likely to see a black bear these days is behind wire and glass at the Taipei Zoo.
On a sunny Saturday, tourists from the island and mainland China cluster around the window of the Formosan black bear enclosure. "He's coming. He's so cute," one tourist says in Mandarin as the huge shaggy bear ambles through its cage.
Tsai Chien-Chuan, 40-year-old father of two, brought his daughters to the enclosure. He says people need to be educated about how important the bears are to Taiwan. "They are more precious than pandas," says Tsai. "They are very important with a smaller population. If we don't protect them, they may go extinct."
A Formosan black bear strolls through his enclosure at the Taipei Zoo.
Hwang is hopeful for the future of the bears and says she's been encouraged by the growing island-wide awareness of the animal's plight. She now has about 25 volunteers working with her group, setting up camera traps high in the mountains to help track the bears' movements. Up in the mountains near Dasyueshan, there is first-hand evidence of hope for the bears. Using a GPS tracker, linked to a collar, Hwang and her team track down a female bear who has been only showing small signs of movement for months. This is likely because she has just given birth to cubs and has slowed her movements to a minimum to look after the young bears in safety. "I do believe we can make a difference," says Hwang. "To be honest I do see a lot of change."