Should Indigenous Hunting Be Banned In Taiwan?

On the soothingly breezy night of 25th August 2013, a native Bunun man, Talum Suqluman, was on his way back home with two animals he hunted for his mother when a cop stopped him. He was arrested and taken to the station for further proceedings, yet it was not the first time any Bunun man was arrested for hunting animals in the region. In the past, numerous people have been imprisoned for the same reason. The arrest of Talum was different this time because his imprisonment for three and half year outraged the locals’ anger as they had been dealing with the changing rules on indigenous hunting in recent years.

Eight years down the line, natives of this small island are still battling with the system to grant back the permission of hunting in the region. Soon, the top court of Taiwan will pass its ruling on the indigenous hunting tradition. So, let us see both sides of the story and find out; would it be fitting to ban indigenous hunting in Taiwan permanently?

Indigenous Hunting

Hunting is no doubt wrongdoing in most given scenarios and is associated with numerous adversities; it is terrible for the ecosystem stability; in the past, many animals got extinct because of hunting activates. However, this case has a little different outlook; hunting for the indigenous community of Taiwan is more than just a fun sport or a hobby. It is a part of their culture and a millennia-long tradition.

In the Bunun culture, hunting is an essential life skill that every tribe member should know. From a very young age, boys start their hunting training from the elders in the family. Young hunters spend considerable nights roaming deep in the dark forests for hunting their first prey. Men who hunt ferocious animals are recognized as warriors. These hunters get the chance to participate in local tribe festivals like the ‘Era Shooting Festival.’

Today in Taiwan, there is a total of 16 recognized indigenous tribal groups, and hunting is deeply rooted in the culture of these natives. But since the enforcement of new regulations against hunting wild animals, many tribes are not able to conduct their regional hunting festivals. Illegal hunting has also skyrocketed in the past years. Talum was not the only indigenous hunter to be caught and imprisoned for hunting, in 2015, Tong men Township’s man was arrested for hunting in a local festival, five people of the Papulu Tribe were imprisoned for hunting during a large-scale hunting festival. There are numerous such cases, most of which don’t even make the headlines.

Why Is The Court Against Hunting?

In Taiwan, maximum hunting activities were brought to an end during the early 1970s when new island laws were enforced, but small-scale hunters still carried out the activity. But the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1989 put a complete ban on commercialized hunting. Before implementing the wildlife conservation law, many native species of animals were hunted to the verge of extinction. Unique animals like tiny muntjac monkeys and deer were hunted for more than 300 years and were exported for their fur.

Ever since the ban, wildlife on the island has recovered; but the Agricultural Ministry of Taiwan is concerned, that the lifting hunting restriction would lead to overhunting in the area.

Unlike commercial hunting, indigenous hunting is controlled and is only carried out at a negligible level. Most of the hunting activity was carried out to protect the agricultural felids from wild animals. An Amis-Atayal’s hunter teacher, Silan Oyon, said to Al Jazeera; “The thing outsiders most misunderstand is they think we kill indiscriminately, everything we see. Hunting is not something we do on a whim. We follow the seasons, alternating between the mountains and riversides. Han people think we spend all day, every day, hunting.”

Indigenous Hunting: Should It Be Banned?

Experts believe that a well-versed hunting management system amongst the indigenous community can help in controlling hunting activates in the forests. Furthermore, because of the ban, the animal population in the forests has revived, so much that now, the population is going out of hand. Wild animals have now started entering the farm and damage the crops. Locals now feel the need for hunting more than ever to stabilize the population.

Initially, hunting was banned in Taiwan to protect the extinction of animals from commercial hunters. Still, the hunt for animals whose population density is considerably good continues. Most of the local tribes conduct the hunting activity using their own manufactured guns, which is now banned by Taiwan’s top court. But the ministry of the Interior has assured that they might allow the indigenous hunters to possess a licensed gun even though gun rights are very strict and most of the civilians are prohibited to have any gun.

Experts believe that the court’s ruling will have a significant effect on not only gun rights but also on Indigenous rights in the country. Activists who have long fought for tribal rights are hoping the ruling to be in the communities’ favor.