Hunter becomes guardian of Taiwan's bears


When he was young, Taiwanese aboriginal hunter Lin Yuan-yuan became a legend after he killed two ferocious Formosan black bears.

Now he has devoted his life to saving the endangered species.

The 55-year-old is still revered by his tribe, the Bunun mountain people, as a guardian of the island's biggest land animal as it struggles to survive poaching and continued degradation of its traditional habitat.

"When I see an animal, I no longer want to shoot it. I want to film it," Lin said.

"I feel happy every time I'm in the mountains," he added, caressing the camera he uses to capture images of animals he encounters in Yushan National Park, one of the bears' two major natural habitats in Taiwan.

Now a ranger, Lin is in a four-member team that patrols the park regularly, covering 40 percent of its 105,000 hectares (260,000 acres) on foot every month.

The transformation into a government employee has not been easy for a person who was born into an aboriginal family and taught hunting skills from early childhood.

Lin, better known to his Bunun people by the name of Ison, killed his first bear on a winter day when he was just 19 years old.

"I saw two animals in the woods," he said, remembering the incident in the eastern Taiwan mountains that made him a local hero 36 years ago.

"At first, I thought they were wild boars. So I fired at one of them and only then did I realise they were actually bears."

The bear, a male of about 70 kilograms (154 pounds), was only 15 metres away from him, roaring with pain for about a minute before collapsing on the ground, he said.

Lin and his cousin had to stay in a shelter on the mountain for two days to prepare the animal for transportation down to the village - skinning the bear, cutting up the meat and roasting it.

When he arrived in the village, Lin was greeted in accordance with age-old tradition, welcomed as a true son of the Bunun tribe with ceremonies and celebrations.

His status as a brave hunter against the island's most dreaded animal was further consolidated after he killed a second bear two years later.

Not long after its establishment in 1985, he joined the Yushan National Park. The job allowed him a stable income and 13 years later it paved the way for a dramatic change in his life.

As a ranger familiar with the bears' habitat, he was approached in 1998 by Hwang Mei-hsiu, a scholar who had dedicated herself to research into the endangered species.

She needed help for a field study which required capturing bears in the wild, fitting them with radio transmitters and releasing them to monitor their movements.

For the first time the study was able to lay bare the dangers confronting Taiwan's indigenous bears, using concrete scientific evidence

Despite a ban on hunting, Hwang's study proved that poaching had been rampant as eight out of the 15 bears they captured in the two years to 1999 in one specific area had lost a paw or several claws when recaptured.

"The bears had fallen victims to hunters' traps, and they were hurt, even though the traps might not necessarily target the bears," said Hwang, who is nicknamed "Bear Mother" by the aborigines.

Killing a bear may bring hunters an illegal profit of Tw$150,000 ($5,200) through the sale of the bear's paws, a delicacy, and bile, an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicines, she said.

To protect the island's endangered species, the authorities in 1989 enacted a law under which poachers of bears and other rare animals may face a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to Tw$1 million.

Some biologists estimate there may be hundreds of Formosan black bears, largely at elevations of 1,000 metres to 2,000 metres (3,300 feet to 6,600 feet) in the Yushan park and the neighbouring Shei-Pa National Park.

They are elusive, but if anyone is capable of finding them it is Lin, using his hunting skills for new, less lethal purposes.

"Lin has always taken us to places where he thought bears might show up," Hwang's assistant Lin Kuan-fu said.

"He is so familiar with the eastern part of the national park that he doesn't even need a map," he said.


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Administrator - London - £26,000

£26000 per annum + 25 days holiday & further benefits: Ashdown Group: Telecomm...

Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are seeking a confident...

Senior Data Analyst - London - £38,000

£30000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Data Analyst - Lon...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London