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Asiatic black bear
Asiatic black bear

Scientific Name: Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae

General Information

The Asiatic Black Bear, is a medium sized bear, smaller than the brown bear, with a body length of 140 to 165 cm and most weigh between 90 and 150 kg. There are lots of other names for the Asiatic Black Bear, including Himalayan Black Bear, the Moon Bear, and the White Chested Bear. Also known as the Baluchistan bear in Iran. They are normally black in color, with lighter muzzles and a distinct V-shaped patch of cream or white colored fur on the chest. This bear has a heavy, stocky body and the ears are large and set far apart.

As with other bear species (and indeed many large carnivores), Asiatic Black Bears are solitary animals that only come together to mate or when competing for more desirable territories. Despite their relatively small claws, Asiatic Black Bears are highly efficient climbers and spend most of their time foraging high in the trees where they inadvertently build nests from the folding of branches caused by them reaching for fruits and hunting small animals. In colder climates in the more northern regions of the natural range, Asiatic Black Bears also hibernate through the winter months and so spend the autumn months consuming foods such as acorns, beechnuts and walnuts that have a high fat content in order to build up a good layer of fat to keep them sustained throughout the winter.
Asiatic Black Bears are largely nocturnal animals that spend most of the day time hours sleeping in nests or hollow trees or caves during the day, only coming out under the cover of night to forage for food. Asiatic Black Bears are known to feed on a wide variety of small animals and plant matter throughout their natural range with their exact diet being heavily dependent on their location on the time of year. A recent study conducted in Thailand however has revealed that Asiatic Black Bears there are known to feed on 160 species of tree-borne fruits alone.
Asiatic Black Bears are able to breed when they are between 4 and 5 years old and do so during the warmer summer months of June and July. After a gestation period that lasts from between 6 to 8 months, 1 to 4 cubs (although usually 2) are born between March and April in the safety and warmth of the female Asiatic Black Bear’s winter den.
Asiatic Black Bears often live to be 30 years old or more in captivity, they rarely exceed the age of 25 in the wild.

Diet

Asiatic black bears are more carnivorous than their American counterparts, although only a small part of their diet is made up of meat. This includes small mammals, birds, fish, molluscs and carcasses.They also feed on plants, berries, insects, fruit and honey. In autumn, they frequent nut-producing trees where they eat in self-constructed leaf and branch nests or platforms. Overall, the Asiatic Black Bear will eat anything that is edible!

Habitat

Asiatic Black Bears live in forests but they aren’t picky about which type – they can be found in broad-leaf (deciduous) forests, conifer forests and even plantations. They live at lots of different altitudes too, from sea level, up to 4,300 metres (14,000 feet)! Asiatic Black Bears are found in many countries, across a wide range.

Distribution in Iran

A narrow band in southeastern Iran. Birak mountain range in Baluchistan, Bashagard and Rodan mountains in Hormozgan, and mountainous areas in south of Kerman.

Distribution in the world

The Asiatic black bear occupies a narrow band from southeastern Iran through Afghanistan and Pakistan, across the foothills of the Himalayas, to Myanmar. It occupies all countries in mainland Southeast Asia except Malaysia and has a patchy distribution in southern China. Another population cluster exists in northeastern China, the southern Russian Far East, and into North Korea. A small remnant population exists in South Korea. They also live on the southern islands of Japan (Honshu and Shikoku) and on Taiwan and Hainan. There are no accurate estimates of population size available.

Conservation

Threats: Asiatic Black Bears have their own enemies – leopards, packs of wolves and dholes (a species of wild dogs) can be threats to adult bears, and Eurasian lynx are a threat to cubs. In physical confrontations between black bears and leopards, the bears usually dominate in forests, while leopards tend to win in open areas. Tigers prey on black bears, killing them for food. They are also threatened by packs of Wolves in some parts of their natural range. People however, have been and still remain, the biggest threat to the world’s Asiatic Black Bear population as they are severely affected by the loss of their natural habitats to deforestation to either clear land for agriculture or increase the size of growing human settlements. They are killed by farmers due to the threat they pose to livestock, and they are also unpopular for their habit of stripping valuable timber trees of bark and reducing the value.They are also severely threatened by the hunting of them for their body parts (their gall bladders and paws) that are highly prized in traditional medicines and despite the ban of their hunting in all countries with the exception of Japan, the trade still continues throughout their natural range today.
Conservation Status: The subspecies U.t.gedrosianus (Baluchistan) is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered, but other subspecies are classified as Vulnerable. This means that scientists are concerned about the future survival of the species. There are more bears being killed in the wild than the numbers of cubs being born, which means that the population is falling.

Human Interaction

Although they are usually shy and cautious animals, Asiatic black bears are more aggressive toward humans than the brown bears. The majority of attacks tend to occur when black bears are encountered suddenly, and in close quarters. They are also likely to attack when protecting food. It is thought that this is because they live in the same places of tigers who may prey on them, and have evolved to be ready to fight when they are scared.