Timber thief arrested for killing Taiwan's endangered black bear

Police find photo of man posing with Formosan black bear after killing it

Ho posing with bear carcass. (Forestry Bureau Hsinchu Forest District Office photo)

Ho posing with bear carcass. (Forestry Bureau Hsinchu Forest District Office photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A timber thief has been arrested for killing an endangered Formosan black bear (Ursus thibetanus formosanus) after authorities found a photo of him posing with the slain animal.

In an effort to crack down on “mountain rats,” which is a term used in Taiwan to refer to illegal loggers or timber thieves, 36 officers from the Hsinchu Forest District Office of the Forestry Bureau joined forces with 50 police officers from the Ministry of Interior's Seventh Special Police Corps to carry out simultaneous raids on seven locations in Hsinchu County and Taoyuan City, reported Liberty Times. Officers arrested a total of nine suspects, including a 52-year-old man surnamed Ho (何).

According to the investigation, the men had been illegally logging Taiwanese cypress and camphor timber at an elevation of 2,500 meters Guanwu National Forest Recreation Area. During the raid, police seized several hundred kilograms of illegally harvested tree burls worth a total value in excess of NT$1 million.

Next to a hut by Ho, police also discovered the fur and bones of what they suspected to be a Formosan black bear. When they inspected Ho's phone, they discovered a photo of him posing behind the carcass of a dead Formosan black bear, with its telltale v-shaped white mark in its chest.

During questioning, Ho said that he frequently set traps to capture animals for their meat. Ho claimed that he unintentionally captured the bear in one of his traps and out of fear of what it would do if he released it, he shot and killed it with his homemade shotgun.

Ho says that he then ate the bear's belly and paws. He then skinned it and saved his pelt.

After questioning Ho, police transferred him to the Hsinchu District Prosecutor's Office to be investigated for violating Article 41 of the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法). Breaching this law can result in a fine of between NT$200,000 to NT$1 million and a prison sentence of up to five years.

As for illegally felling protected trees, Ho and his cohorts could face a prison sentence of seven years for violating the Forestry Act (森林法). There are only about 200 to 300 Formosan black bears believed to be still in the wild, according to Bear Conservation.

(Forestry Bureau Hsinchu Forest District Office photo)

Ho proudly posing with bear carcass. (Forestry Bureau Hsinchu Forest District Office photo)

(Forestry Bureau Hsinchu Forest District Office photo)

(Forestry Bureau Hsinchu Forest District Office photo)