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Balochistan Bear

IUCN Status Globally: Vulnerable (VU)

Status in Pakistan: Nationally listed as critically endangered in Pakistan

Scientific Name: Ursus thibetanus (Baluchistan bear > gedrosianus Ursus thibetanus)

Family: Ursidae

Order: Carnivora

Class: Mammalia

Population Trend: Decreasing

Balochistan Black Bear PC: WWF Pakistan - wwfpak.org

A type of Asiatic bear and sub species of the Asian Black Bear, the Balochistan bear is also referred to as the “moon bear” due to a crescent-shaped chest mark. These solitary bears live in forest habitats and can weigh over 300 pounds. Overall it is also smaller than the other subspecies and is more varietal and may be from reddish-orange to deep black. The Baluchistan bear is found only in the province of Baluchistan in southwest Pakistan and in southeastern Iran.

Unfortunately these are yet another species of mammals that now face extinction due to deforestation, loss of habitat and excessive killing in fights for fun by local landlords. Those that survive are threatened by hunting due to demand for the bears’ parts by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.

Unfortunately there are hardly any good stories associated with this sub species of the Asiatic bear in Pakistan. It used to be widely distributed in the majority of Balochistan but now it is listed as critically endangered in Pakistan and extinct in most of the natural habitat locally. These bears have adapted well over centuries and are covered in an uncommonly thin coat as compared to the Asian black bear. The obvious reason for this is that, this species is located in a warmer climate than most of the other subspecies, which are native to the cooler Himalayan mountain regions.  This specie is omnivore but fruit are a preferred food type so they like to consume figs and bananas.

 

Habitat

A subspecies(Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus) of the Asiatic Black is found in the south western mountain ranges of Balochistan(Pakistan) and Iran. They are mostly found in the elevated mountain ranges of Takht-e-Suliman and Toba Kakar. Also known to found in Ziarat, Kalat and Khuzdar, this specie of bear is called as “mum” in Baluchistan.

These bears have adapted well over centuries and are covered in an uncommonly thin coat as compared to the Asian black bear. The obvious reason for this is that, this species is located in a warmer climate than most of the other subspecies, which are native to the cooler Himalayan mountain regions.

 

Diet

Common diet of the Baluchistan bear comprises of olives, Chinese dates and starchy stems of plants, rhizomes  and the fruits of the Palms that don’t grow tall. The often consume insects and lizard as well.  This bear is the smallest of the other subspecies. A common attribute visible in the Baluchistan bear is that it has a darker chest mark compared to other subspecies. Another characteristics of the species is breaking up logs in their hunt for grubs; this process is vital in the course of decaying in the jungle and the supply of nutrients to the forest floor. This specie is omnivore but fruit are a preferred food type and they like to consume figs and bananas.

 

Major Threats

Locals capture these omnivores alive and they are regularly confiscated from local tribes who try to raise these Asiatic bears as pets. In my homeland Pakistan, numerous thousand bears were caught from their habitat for show off, exhibition in circuses, dance exhibitions and bear baiting. In bear baiting, claws and canines of each bear are extracted and they are left to fight with dogs. This creepy and cruel act was made unlawful and prohibited in 2001, but still occurs to some extent.

A major threat to the bears is the habitat loss majorly because of illegal logging, growth of human population that leads to expansion of villages, development of highways network, and installation of power stations in the wild.

Local and nomad herders let their cattle graze in the bear territory and end up in killing the native bears blaming them for the killing of their livestock. Poaching for body parts like gall bladders for medicines is also a threat to the species.

Note: The Asiatic Black bear is an endangered species. Read more here>>

References: http://www.bearsoftheworld.net/

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