Asiastic Black Bear

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by 2Cmonkey
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Asiastic Black Bear

Distinguishing CharacteristicsAsiatic black bears are similar in size and habits, and share a common ancestor with the American black bear (Ursus americanus) with a stocky body, round head and large ears. The black coat is shaggy and there is a ruff of longer hairs around the neck. There is a crescent-shaped yellow/cream marking on the chest, which has led to this bear being called the 'moon bear' in some areas. The muzzle is also pale in color.Physical CharacteristicsHead/Body Length: 4.5 to 5.5 feet long (1.4-1.7 m) nose to tail.Weight (males): 220-440 pounds (99-199 kg)Weight (females): 110-275 pounds (50-125 kg)Dental formula: is usually 3/3, 1/1, 4/4, 2/3 = 42Asiatic black bears have strong, curved claws up to two inches (5 cm) long and strong forelimbs that aid in climbing trees and digging for food. Their paws do not have fur. The bare foot pads aid in climbing trees to reach foods such as acorns, chestnuts, walnuts and fruits. Trees also provide safety for bears especially cubs.

IUCN Status: Vulnerable. The subspecies, Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus, (Iran and Pakistan) is listed as Critically Endangered.Ursus thibetanus is also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which bans international trade.Asiatic black bears are endangered due to habitat fragmentation and loss and poaching for their gall bladders, meat, bones and paws. These bear parts are used in traditional Chinese medicines. Asiatic black bears are sometimes killed because they damage valuable trees and sometimes kill domestic livestock. It is not known how many bears still live in the wild.Although actual data on population sizes or trends are lacking, it seems likely, given the rate of habitat loss and uncontrolled exploitation that the world population has declined by 30–49% over the past 30 years (3 bear generations) and that this rate will continue during the next 30 years unless abated by the implementation of significant conservation measures.

Threats:Habitat loss and degradation is most severe in the southern portion of the range. In India, <10% of the species’ range is within protected areas (PAs), and areas outside PAs are subject to development projects and extraction of wood for fuel and livestock fodder (Sathyakumar 2006). In Bangladesh, where forest cover is now <7% of the land area, Asiatic black bears survive only in small remnant patches in the east, generally near the Myanmar border. Myanmar, although still well forested (nearly 50%), is fourth in the world in the annual rate of loss of forested area (among countries occupied by all species of bears, it is second only to Indonesia: FAO 2006). Thailand has lower forest cover (<30%), but much of its remaining forests are within PAs, and about half of these are occupied by black bears (Vinitpornsawan et al. 2006). Forest area has recently been increasing in Viet Nam, but much of the present remaining forest is highly degraded from both legal and illegal lumbering (Nguyen Xuan Dang 2006).Forest area is increasing rapidly in China, which is now first in the world in terms of area gained per year. This increasing forest area stems from mandated government programs aimed mainly toward reducing flooding and erosion; the replanted trees may or may not be particularly suitable for bears. However, good forest habitat does persist in northeastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Russia, and Japan. In Japan, black bear range has expanded with increasing forest area and diminishing rural human populations (Oi and Yamazaki 2006). Meanwhile, the number of people killed or injured by Japanese black bears has been on the rise (presumably reflective of the increasing bear population), and the same may be true in some parts of China (J. Gong, Sichuan Forestry Dept., Chengdu pers. comm.).The major threat to bears in China and Southeast Asia is the commercial trade in live bears and bear parts, especially gall bladders (bile). China initiated commercial bear farming in 1984, ostensibly to satisfy the demand for bile by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM; and also Traditional Korean Medicine, TKM). The bile is periodically drained, so the captive bears do not have to be killed; it was claimed that this practice would thereby reduce the taking of wild bears. However, these farms were initially stocked with wild bears, and although the Chinese farms are purportedly now mainly self-propagating (with some continuing exceptions), there is no evidence that their existence has reduced the killing (poaching) of wild bears. In Viet Nam, many small-scale bile farms have been started, which were stocked by several thousand bears removed from the wild (from Viet Nam as well as from neighbouring countries). The condition in which these bears are kept precludes successful breeding and cub rearing; in fact, most of these farms do not attempt to breed their bears. Moreover, although this practice has been illegal since 1992, with regulations strengthened in 2002, the number of wild-caught farmed bears in Viet Nam is estimated to have increased by an order of magnitude in less than a decade (J. Robinson and G. Cochrane, Animals Asia Foundation pers. comm.).A surplus of bile is produced by the 8000–10,000 bears currently kept on Chinese bear farms, spurring efforts to find markets in non-traditional uses of bile (e.g., lotions, shampoos, cosmetics); meanwhile, many practitioners of TCM/TKM believe that bile from wild bears is more effective at healing various ailments, and are thus willing to pay higher prices for this product and may be disinclined to use substitutes (Chang et al. 1995, Kang and Phipps 2003). The market for bear paws also appears to be increasing commensurate with an increasing number of wealthy people who find it within their means to indulge in this very expensive delicacy.The demand for these bear products has fuelled a growing network of international trade throughout Southeast Asia, and has turned many subsistence hunters into commercial hunters. Most commercial trade routes eventually terminate in China (Saw Htun 2006; C. Shepherd, TRAFFIC SE Asia pers. comm.). However, it is difficult to assess the true extent of this trade because only a small fraction of the parts are confiscated. Moreover, with no reliable population estimates or monitoring system it is not possible to evaluate the actual impacts on populations. Nevertheless, it seems highly probable that this commercially-driven trade in parts is unsustainable and therefore causing populations to decline.The capture of live bears presents yet another threat to this species. In several Southeast Asian countries Asiatic black bears are routinely confiscated from people attempting to raise them as pets. In Pakistan, several thousand bears were taken from the wild for exhibitions (referred to as bear baiting) in which individual bears (with canines and claws removed) fight with dogs. This practice was made illegal in 2001, but continues to some extent.

Asiastic Black Bear

Asiatic black bears most often feed diurnally. However, their nocturnal activity increases through autumn. This occurs because the bears must increase their food intake in order to store body fat for insulation and caloric needs for use during harsh winters and hibernation. Asiatic black bears seem to be able to shift their circadian rhythm in order to obtain desired foods; for example, when raiding crops, they are more likely to do so at night in order to avoid contact with humans. Asiatic black bears posses an acute sense of smell that lets them locate grubs and other insects up to 3 feet (approximately 1 meter) below the ground. Asiatic black bears are omnivorous, though they are primarily vegetarians. A recent study showed that nuts from Fagaceae trees occupied the highest proportion of autumn foods. When food production and availability is poor, Asiatic black bears have been known to strip the bark off of trees in order to supplement their deficient diet with nutrients. Their normal diet consists of fruits, roots and tubers, as well as small invertebrates and vertebrates, and carrion. However, cases in which they eat buffalo by breaking the neck have been documented.

Life DevelopmentBreeding interval: The breeding interval is not known for sure; Asiatic Black Bears have been seen with two litters of cubs, but in the wild they typically only have one litter of cubs at a time. Since the young stay with the mother for 2 to 3 years, the breeding interval could therefore be 1 litter every 2 to 3 years, or more.Breeding season: Late Summer; From June to October, depending on which population is being observedEstrus cycle:Number of offspring: 2 (average)Gestation period: 7 to 8 monthsWeight at birth: 16.3 oz (463 g) (average)Time to weaning: 3.50 months (average)Time to independence: 2 to 3 yearsAge of sexual maturity: 3 to 4 yearsLifespan (wild): 25 yearsLifespan (captivity): One captive specimen lived 39.2 yearsLocomotionSocial StructureAsiatic black bears live and hunt alone except for mating pairs and females with cubs.


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