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Animals - Animaux terrestres - 12 February 2021

How many species of bears are there in the world?

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John Ab

@john

The European brown bear

brown-bear-europe-wet-water

What threats are hanging over the brown bear?

The brown bear is not globally threatened. Yet the brown bear is endangered in some countries in Europe and the species is even locally extinct. In France, the brown bear is a species extremely close to extinction, with only a handful of isolated individuals remaining in the Pyrenees. Despite reintroductions in 1996/1997 and again in 2006, the number of bears is still very low. Some breeders have made the bear the scapegoat for a suffering industry. However, thanks to subsidies linked to the presence of the bear, their working conditions have greatly improved.

 

Like everywhere, the bear competes with humans for its territory. Urbanization is grabbing a little more from the wilderness every day. By encroaching on bear lands, we increase the number of confrontations. We could start a debate to ask ourselves which of man and his cattle or of the bear has the best place in the Pyrenean mountains, but it is time to prove that we are homo sapiens sapiens, evolved men capable of live with the wild.

 

The cohabitation between breeding and bears is not a utopia. It is practiced in other countries. There is, for example in Romania, a very important sheep breeding tradition and the presence of more than 5000 bears. There, the profession of shepherd takes on its full meaning. Man is there to protect his animals and this is usually enough to ward off large predators.

 

It is still sad, in 2017, to still see that the biggest predator is none other than … humans.

 

The collared bear or our Asiatic black bear

Outdoor Enclosure Release at BSNB 2017

What threats hang over the collared bear?

The collared bear is a victim of bile trafficking, the traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia ascribing many properties to it. While recent studies attempt to prove that ursodeoxycholic acid (and in particular its synthetic version) could have positive effects on retinal degeneration (Boatright et al., 2006), protection against type I diabetes (Engin et al. ., 2013) and some neurodegenerative diseases (Vang et al., 2014), it is believed that the version contained in bear bile would mainly contain pus and various toxicants, its extraction often not being carried out under conditions of acceptable hygiene. As a reminder, the bears are locked in cages (metal or bamboo) in bile farms, with a catheter placed in their abdomen to collect the precious liquid. This barbaric method causes the bears suffering that can last for years. It seems unthinkable that we can continue to collect bear bile these days when the molecule can be produced, properly and sensibly causing suffering, in the laboratory.

 

Collared bears are also victims of poaching and habitat loss.

The polar bear

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What threats are hanging over the polar bear?

It is both one of the least accessible bears and yet one of the most threatened. While the number of polar bears is still estimated at around 25,000 individuals, the threats to this species are such that one could fear a sharp drop in the number of bears in the years to come. The difficulty is that the polar bear is the victim of silent, insidious threats: pollution of the Arctic and global warming.

 

First, there is our pollution, that of industrialized countries, which is carried towards the Arctic by air currents. DDTs and other PCBs fall on the Arctic in rainy or snowy precipitation, and these pollutants are found throughout the ice lord’s food chain. Then there is visible pollution, also linked to human activities. It can be fishing nets, plastic bags, tin cans and a lot of other rubbish brought in by the waves.

 

But it is global warming that poses the most problems, since the entire life of polar bears is linked to ice floes. Without ice, it’s impossible to hunt their favorite prey: the seal. Premature ice jams and late ice jams mean prolonged fasting periods for bears.

 

Our increasingly energy-intensive lifestyles are probably one of the causes of global warming. We must become aware of this as soon as possible to adopt daily actions to influence this disaster to come. But that’s not all. Politicians and industry must also be urged to take urgent action as well. To arms, citizens of the world!

Lippu Bear

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What threats are hanging over the Lippu bear?

Sloth bears have long been trained by bear trainers who made them dance on the end of a rope. This practice, illegal in India since 1972, has continued for many years but is now marginal. These bears were also used in fights against dogs.

 

The most serious threat to this species is the loss of territory, since 90 to 95% of sloth bears live in India and the country sees its human population explode, which obviously creates problems of space and therefore cohabitation. with wildlife. This demographic concern has further repercussions on bears, as the demand for timber leads to deforestation, as does the growing need for agricultural land. It is important to reserve protected areas for bears, otherwise their numbers could decline rapidly in the coming decades.

American black bear or Baribal

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What threats are hanging over the black bear ?

The American black bear is not an endangered species. However, we must remain vigilant because the bear is sometimes hunted illegally, especially for its gall bladder, paws and other parts of its body, known to have medicinal properties. To stop poaching, black bears have been protected since 1992 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The American black bear is sometimes familiar with behavior and its proximity to humans can create tension. For example, bears are sometimes killed illegally because they come to eat in orchards or bathe in swimming pools, or even to feed in garbage cans.

 

It is, of course, necessary to exploit resources reasonably in areas where bears are present. The exploitation of the forest must be done sparingly and the fragmentation of its habitat must be avoided at all costs, in particular by clearing areas of forests to make agricultural land.

 

Finally, let us remember that the American black bear is considered game and that 40,000 black bears are legally killed each year in North America and Canada. Increasingly, governments are agreeing to limit spring hunting, which is responsible for many cases of orphaned cubs.

Giant Panda

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What threats are hanging over the giant panda ?

The giant panda is a very vulnerable species of bear because the number of individuals in the natural environment is very low. The panda is a species found only in China, in forests over 1,500 meters above sea level, and its diet is very specific since it feeds almost exclusively on bamboo. The Chinese government is making great efforts to conserve the species, including studying the reproduction of this solitary and reserved animal. The reproduction rate is very low, which explains the difficulty in maintaining the species. However, the latest studies are encouraging and show that the panda population is slowly increasing.

 

We must continue these efforts and pay particular attention to the conservation of the habitat of the giant panda, and in particular by creating ecological corridors so that pandas living in the natural environment always find bamboo for food.

Spectacled bear

spectacled-bear

What threats hang over the Spectacled bear ?

The spectacle bear is the only bear found in South America. It owes its name to the light markings around its eyes. It has a real ecological role since it participates in the regeneration of forests by dispersing the seeds found in the food it consumes.

 

AVES France has been supporting Andean Bear Foundation, based in Ecuador, for several years. For ten years, ABF took in orphan bearded bear cubs and reintroduced them into their natural environment by putting them through a rehabilitation process that allowed them to learn to fend for themselves (replacing their mother). Despite the good results, Andean Bear Foundation has today chosen to work on prevention and on the study of Ecuador’s wildlife.

 

Ecuador is currently facing big changes. A wide road now crosses the territory of the bears, some forests are fragmented to make room for the growing demand for land from the palm oil and petroleum industry, wild animals are hunted by poachers and farmers who accuse them of destroying crops. The bears sometimes feed on the corn of the farmers. They are also suspected of preying on tapirs and cows, which Armando Castellanos has confirmed through his field studies.

 

The frequency of conflicts between wild animals and humans is increasing rapidly in Ecuador. The main cause is habitat loss, with forests turning into agricultural areas. The Andean Bear Foundation works to counter these conflict situations by protecting spectacle bears and their habitat. Several bears and tapirs are equipped with radio tracking devices. The aim is to improve understanding of the habits of these animals by collecting data on their environmental requirements. Armando’s sightings are published in international journals, and his work sometimes undermines what we thought we knew about Spectacled Bears. Obviously, we still have a lot to learn about this animal inhabiting the paramo.

 

Andean Bear Foundation works with local communities to help Ecuadorians live with spectacle bears and mountain tapirs. They are also setting up signage campaigns on the roads to encourage motorists to ease off in areas frequented by wildlife.

Sun bear or Coconut bear

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What threats are hanging over the sun bear?

The massive deforestation that has taken place over the past three decades across Southeast Asia is having a dramatic impact on sun bear populations. This animal, like many others, is dependent on the forest, which is sacrificed to be turned into agricultural land. Habitat loss and commercial hunting have caused the Sun bear population to decline by over 30% over the past 30 years, which is significant. It is urgent to realize this tragedy and to put an end to it, before it is too late.

 

Sun bears are the primary victims of the palm oil and soybean industry. We can save them, but we urgently need to change our consumption patterns.