Bear Species
Asiatic Black Bear
( Ursus thibetanus )

Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus)

Physical description and lifespan

Asiatic black bears are medium sized, with adult males averaging 1.9 m in length and weighing between 100–200 kg. Adult females average 1.5 to 1.7 m in length and weigh 50–125 kg.

This species is characterised by a light brown muzzle, a long-haired ruff around the neck and prominent ears. Black fur is predominant across the Asiatic black bear habitats, but brown furred examples can be found in South East Asia. Most Asiatic black bears have a ‘crescent moon’ of white, yellow or buff colouring across the chest.

Asiatic black bear survival rates are similar to those of American black bears; adult females are thought to have a survival rate of 80–90 per cent.

Distribution

The distribution of the Asiatic black bear extends from Afghanistan east across the Himalayan Mountain range in northern India and Nepal, south throughout much of southern Asia, and north through China, the far east of Russian and the islands of Japan and Taiwan.

Behaviour

Asiatic black bears are solitary, excepting family groups, and are primarily nocturnal. They hibernate only in the northern parts of their range. The species is very arboreal, spending considerable time feeding and resting in trees.

Reproduction

The reproductive biology of Asiatic black bears appears to be similar to that of American black bears, although there may be more variation geographically (bears in Russia breed earlier than those in tropical environments). Asiatic black bears usually have two cubs per litter, with litters of one or three cubs occurring less frequently.

Diet

Asiatic black bears are omnivorous and feed primarily on grasses and sedges in spring and soft and hard mast species during summer and autumn.

Conflict with humans

Human–bear conflicts present a serious limitation to conserving Asiatic black bear populations across their range.

Japan: Asiatic black bears are viewed as pests – a result of raiding crops, coniferous plantations and fish farms, beehive destruction and attacks on livestock.

India: Attacks on livestock and people are a major concern in parts of the country where high density human communities have encroached on and degraded bear habitat. Increasing numbers of conflict incidents have been used to justify high hunting quotas and the trapping and killing of Asiatic black bears in other areas across its range.

Russia: Damage to beehives by Asiatic black bears in is not uncommon, but attacks on humans and livestock are rare.

Pakistan: Instances of Asiatic black bears preying on livestock, commercial crops and personal vegetable gardens have increased.

2008 conservation status

Asiatic black bears are categorised as ‘VU’ (vulnerable) on the IUCN 2006 Red List, primarily due to expected population declines over the next 20 years/three generations and actual or potential exploitation of the species.


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