One of two leaders of a group of “mountain rats” – a term used in Taiwan to describe illegal loggers and timber thieves – confessed to killing, skinning, and eating a Formosan black bear, after bones were found in his camp, and pictures were found on his phone.
Fifty police and 36 forestry personnel were mobilized May 7 to search for timber thieves in seven locations in Hsinchu County, Miaoli County, and Taoyuan City mountain districts, after a four-month-long investigation, according to a United Daily News report.
Teams searched locations in remote high mountain districts, and one team located a camp at an altitude of 2,000 meters in the Guanwu National Forest Recreation Area.
Nine suspects were arrested on the spot, and evidence collected included timber burls from several tree species, including cypress and camphor wood. Further investigations and a search of the group’s warehouse uncovered more than 500 kilograms of tree burls.
Investigators also found fur and bones at the camp that were eventually identified as being those of a Formosan black bear (Ursus thibetanus formosanus) – listed as an endangered species in Taiwan.
Police found pictures of the slaughtered bear on the phone of a man identified as Mr He ( 何 ). One of the pictures showed He posing with the dead bear with a big smile on his face.
Mr He confessed to trapping the bear and killing it. Mr He claimed that he had set a trap after animals had plundered food stored at the camp.
Mr He claimed that he had not expected to trap a bear, but having done so, decided that it was too dangerous to attempt to free the animal, so he shot and killed it with a home-made shotgun.
Mr He admitted to skinning the bear and eating the belly and paws.
Hsinchu County prosecutors charged He with violations of the Wildlife Conservation Act. The maximum penalty is a fixed term of up to five years, and a fine of NT$200,000 to NT$1 million.
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