Desiree Andersen1, Yoonjung Yi1, Amaël Borzée1, Kyungmin Kim1, Kwang-Seon Moon2, Jeong-Jin Kim2, Tae-Wook Kim2, and Yikweon Jang1
1 Division of EcoScience, Ewha Womans University, Daehyun-dong 11-1, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, 03760, Republic of Korea.
2 Species Restoration Technology Institute, Korea National Park Service, 53-1 Hwangjeon, Masan, Gurye, South Jeolla Province, 26466, Republic of Korea.
Modelling of a reintroduced Asiatic Black Bear population in South Korea with recommendations for future conservation
The Asiatic Black Bear, Ursus thibetanus, which is classified by the IUCN as vulnerable to critically endangered across its range, was functionally extirpated from South Korea in the 1990s. However, the South Korean government began to reintroduce individuals into Jiri Mountain National Park, Republic of Korea, in 2004. The reintroduction program has generally been considered a success, with more than 50 individuals currently residing in the park. As the population grows, park officials must decide how to deal with dispersing individuals and how the program should progress. In this study, we use a mixed modelling approach to determine suitable habitat areas, carrying capacity for three different scenarios, and least-cost pathways. Suitability was first determined using a resource selection function (RSF) model, which was then incorporated along with life history traits into the population simulation software HexSim. We tested simulations for Jiri Mountain National Park, for South Korea with no further reintroductions, and for South Korea with a second, similarly-structured reintroduction in Seorak Mountain National Park. These simulations gave us average carrying capacities of 64, 230, and 1,111 individuals, respectively, with a maximum of 1,357 individuals possible in South Korea. Finally, we used the GIS tool “Linkage Mapper" to map least-cost pathways based on resource availability and landscape urbanization. The results of the network and map linkage tool match an actual dispersal route of one male individual which recently escaped from Jiri Mountain National Park and travelled to a location about 80 km away from this park. Based on these results, we strongly recommend a second reintroduction program in Seorak Mountain National Park and increased connectivity and habitat corridors along the Baekdudaegan Mountain Range.