In the coming weeks, we would like to discover with you the different bear species of the world and to understand better if and how they are threatened and/or exploited by man. We will do it through a series of eight articles that will be published on our blog, one for each different species 🙂
Learning together, we’ll get to know better why bears are so important, and what can we do for them. Why bears? Here the answer in short, as an introduction:
Bears are present in America, Asia and Europe and never lived in Australia or Antarctica. As for Africa, just fossil bears have been found.
The species show lots of different aspects, ranging from size, diet, winter habits, etc, but let’s start from some of the common things of all species: bears are very intelligent and opportunistic animals with a very developed sense of smell, followed by hearing and seeing. They are born blind, toothless and hairless, weighing less than 900gr and they will need to stay with their mother for 1-3 years.
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For this first article we chose the Asian Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus):
This bear is also known as “moon bear” thanks to his large, white crescent-shaped mark appearing on his chest, and is one of the 6 species of bear that lives in Asia. Its habitat includes forests going from Afghanistan till Taiwan and Japan including Tibet and eastern-south Russia.
It’s a medium sized bear (adult male range from 100 to 200kg) and like most of other bears is omnivorous, with an opportunistic mainly vegetarian diet that changes due to the period of the year and the food availability.
Among its behaviors, it likes to climb and spends lots of time in a nest that it builds on a tree, unlike other bears, it can live in family groups (at least in captivity). As for the winter behavior, only some specimens of northern latitudes hibernate while others simply go to lower altitudes.
Its main predators in nature are tigers and leopards, but also pack of wolves and dholes can be a menace, especially for cubs.
INTERACTION WITH HUMANS
Like with other bears, a common problem is the loss and fragmentation of habitat due to deforestation and destruction of the forests where it lives (even if in China and Japan its habitat is increasing).
The Moon Bear also has many other problems: it is hunted it for the skin and the paws (bear sport hunting is legal in Russia and Japan).
Furthermore, traditional Chinese medicine is very interested in lots of its parts, like bones and gall bladders, and for taking out the bile exist lots of Bear Farms legal in China and South Korea, where an estimated number of 8000-10000 bears are kept there (number of bears in illegal farms is of course not known). Here bears are kept in little cages with terrible conditions and usually can live to there up to 20 years!
All these bear parts are sold at a high prize and a big part of the trade is illegal.
Finally, due to its natural ability to stand on its hind legs, and its great learning ability in captivity, is often used for entertainment, such as dancing bears in India, fighting bears in Pakistan and circus bears in Vietnam, China and other parts of Asia. Often for these purpose bears are blinded and canine and claws are removed. A practice of drilling the nose (a very sensible part) for tiding them is also common.
There are lots of associations trying to aware public opinion and to save these bears. This is a documentary by one of them.
No rigorous population estimates exist for this species but the population has likely declined by 30-49% over the past 30 years.
IUCN state: VULNERABLE
Population trend: DECREASING