The aim of this project was to confiscate several captive bears from poor private keeping in the Yerevan area and give them a new home in the large bear enclosure of Yerevan Zoo, which was completed at the end of 2017 with financial help from Bears in Mind.
Just before Christmas 2017, with funding from Bears in Mind, a bear was freed from its cage at Shant restaurant and transferred to the quarantine enclosure at Yerevan Zoo. She had to stay in quarantine for a few weeks to recover and her very bad teeth were taken care of. She now walks among the other bears in the large bear enclosure in the zoo and is doing well!
The second bear that was rescued in spring of 2018 was a 2-3 year old female (see photo below). Nothing is known about her origin, whether wild or born in captivity, but until rescued by FPWC she was kept in a small concrete cage next to the Golden Hill hotel in the northern Armenian city of Gyumri. She has also been transferred to the quarantine enclosure in Yerevan Zoo and fortunately she is doing well and in excellent health!
Bears are sought after for use in traditional medicines, for consumption and live as pets. Indonesia, a well-known hub of illegal wildlife trade (IWT), has a thriving trade in bears yet very little is known of the current status of this trade. This lack of information is an obstacle to conservation actions and hinders efforts to end this illegal trade and ultimately protect bears in the wild.
Understanding the drivers behind the trade, the sources of the bears and other relevant dynamics is key to developing a strategy to counter this crime. Investigating legal deterrents, such as seizures and penalties is also essential in order to better support enforcement efforts and to inform policy decisions. While some work has been done to collect and compile this information, major components of data are missing or outdated, hampering conservation efforts.
With financial support from Bears in Mind, the team from Monitor Conservation Research Society (Monitor) intends to fill these knowledge gaps and use the resulting information to support effective enforcement efforts, strengthen national policies and to catalyse conservation efforts in Indonesia to better protect bears from the illegal wildlife trade.
Illegal wildlife trade is an emerging conservation threat to biodiversity. It is most prominent in developing countries with limited capacity to address illegal trade and regulate legal sustainable trade regulation. Bears are mainly traded for their gall bladder, which is used to treat different medical ailments linked to medicinal traditions. For example, to treat several diseases by the Shoka tribe in India. Or in Traditional Chinese Medicines where an extensive illegal trade into China fuels the use to treat gallstones, liver problems, fever, heart diseases, and eye irritation. But also in traditional Ayurveda and Tibetan medicinal traditions for instance. Following the rampant use of bear bile, and its clinically proven treatment of liver diseases due to the presence of ursodeoxycholic acid (ursodiol), commercial bear bile farming started in the 1980s. The vulnerable Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus), known as Moon bears, Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus), and Brown bears are preferably farmed for bile. This is more prevalent in China where the use of bear bile from captive bears is legal (although, illegal to extract bear bile from wild bears).
Nepal falls between India and China, the two big consumers of traditional medicinals (e.g., Traditional Chinese Medicines in China; Ayurveda in India). Nepal also has consumers of traditional medicines including Amchi also called Tibetan medicinal practitioners, Nepali folk medicines, and Ayurveda; and have documented the historical use of bear parts as a cure for different ailments. There are reports that Nepal acts as a transit, sometimes a source, for bear trade. A recent study indicated Nepal as a transit for bear bile trade from India to China, while there is evidence of Nepal being both a transit and source country.
In this light, Bears in Mind supports this project bij Greenhood Nepal since 2023 to investigate the extent of the trade in Nepal and what measures need to be in place to ensure conservation of bears, as well as expose potential gaps.
Gobi bears (Ursus arctos gobiensis) are endemic to southwestern Mongolia, where only 31 individuals remain. They have a highly male-biased sex ratio and are restricted to a ~23,600 km2 area in proximity to water resources. They have extremely low genetic diversity.
To conserve this extremely fragile population, further ecological studies, such as identifying dietary items, temporal shifts in diet, and niche partitioning with other species are needed to understand the limiting factors of the population. In harsh environments with scarce resources, such as the Gobi Desert, the coexistence of carnivores relies on the availability of a limited number of food items.
Researchers from Mongolia and the USA will try to answer important research questions:
Are these species directly competing for food resources, or do they coexist with the help of niche partitioning?
How do diet items change seasonally for Gobi bears and others?
Are there any differences on sexes and individual’s diet for Gobi bears and other carnivore species.
This study, supported by Bears in Mind since 2023, will help answer these questions and will provide important basic ecology data and also be directly relevant to the management and conservation of Gobi bears.
Human-Carnivore Conflict (HCC) is commonplace in Georgia, but it is especially severe in and around protected areas, in which case local people’s negative attitudes towards carnivores spills over into their antagonism to nature conservation per se, undermining the effectiveness of the affected protected area. Livestock farmers often complain about the fact that Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park (BKNP) administration does not allow guns into the park, while they fail to offer alternative ways to protect their livestock from carnivores (bears and wolfs), or to compensate for the losses. According NACRES experience compensation schemes, as well as improved livestock protection/husbandry have the great potential to mitigate HCC and increase PA effectiveness.
The goal of this project supported by Bears in Mind is to mitigate human-carnivore conflict in BKNP through active engagement with local players and the introduction of innovative community-based insurance/compensation schemes. This will be reached by:
studying the HCC in BKNP to assess losses, underlying reasons etc. Furthermore, select effective livestock protection measures and support their implementation.
test a locally adapted insurance/compensation scheme with the support of relevant experts.
establishing a livestock loss insurance/compensation, run by or with a strong involvement of local actors/communities.
NACRES team carried out two comprehensive studies to find out more about the HCC scale and root causes in Borjomi-Kharagauli protected areas.
In the first study they found that among the farmers, livestock was the most important and profitable husbandry type of activity and any depredation cause significant financial loss among the locals. 94% of the respondents mentioned that they suffered from wild animals and named wolf as the most problematic animals (95% of interviewee) and named bear as second nuisance animal (66%). The most of the respondents think that wild animal attacks are more acute in alpine pastures (n=43), but substantial numbers said that problem is equal in alpine meadows and village surroundings (n=25). The majority of the local population thinks that carnivore damage increased in recent years. They blame protected areas and protection regime that allows to increase carnivore numbers. 78% of respondents received damage from predators in 2021 and 67% reported the damage as significant. Most of the respondents believe that the existing means of protection are ineffective and they are interested in introducing alternative, effective protection mechanisms.
According to second study they found that the financial loss is not as high as previously mentioned by the residents although it stays significant. On the summer pastures total damage was 25,580 GEL (equivalent of about € 8,960). Livestock protection measures are weak on the summer pastures. Farmers often do not herd cattle, and dogs only protect livestock near summer camps and often use solar powered lights to deter predators.
NACRES installed 4 electric fences around beehives and disseminated 8 Foxlights devices. Due to complicated regulation to clear electronic devices at customs, they experienced huge a delay in receiving the equipment. When the electric fence equipment arrived, all the farmers already moved back to their villages and almost nobody stayed on summer camps. NACRES will further test the equipment in spring 2023.
On this page, the latest rescue mission will be published.
Bear MILA On October 1st 2022, the Bears in Mind team traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina to rescue 7-year-old bear MILA from her unfortunate predicament. For this rescue mission and professional transport we hired EKIPA, who have already transported bears for us from Ukraine, Bulgaria and Spain.
MILA spent the first 6 years of her life in a small dark cage in someone’s home, hidden from the outside world. We only tracked her down in 2021 and together with the responsible authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we ensured that the bear was eventually transferred to a temporary holding at Sarajevo Zoo. She has been here since March 2022 and we have sent extra funds to the zoo, to cover food and medical care and prepare her for the long journey to The Bear Forest in The Netherlands.
On Monday 3rd of October, the Bears in Mind and EKIPA teams started preparations early in the morning. The transport crate was placed and secured in front of the cage MILA was in, after which we tried to lure her into the crate with her favorite treats. But MILA wasn’t easy to catch, it turned out. After an hour of trying, it was decided to sedate her. After all, we had a tight deadline to meet: the vet’s service at the Bosnian border would end at 5:00 PM and we had to obtain signed documents from him before that time in order to cross the border with bear, into the EU. Strict controls were expected at the external border of the EU, so everything had to be 100% okay.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned. After leaving Sarajevo Zoo, the team and bear had to go to the local customs office with the bear to prepare various other papers. This took many hours longer than expected. The subsequent ‘race to the border’ was to no avail, the veterinarian on duty had gone home and no one could help us anymore. Only at 8 AM next morning, on World Animal Day, did the border office open again and after a delay of more than 13 hours we were able to continue our journey again.
On the other side of the border, a major new challenge soon unfolded. Due to an error by Sarajevo Zoo in a document, the Croatian customs agent could not see the papers in the system and the Croatian border inspector / vet could not sign the EU travel documents. It took another 7 hours before we could get back on the road! Fortunately, MILA was calm all this time. The long road ahead of us, through Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, continued without any problems. Early in the morning, on Wednesday the 5th of October, we arrived at Ouwehands Zoo and the Bear Forest. MILA was unloaded smoothly by the team of bear keepers and curiously inspected her new (temporary) environment in the quarantine of the Bear Forest. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!! MILA will be examined and quarantined for the next month, before her release into her new forever home.
UPDATE July 2023: MILA is doing great so far. She is really enjoying the space she gained in the forest, and is very curious about all the other residents living there and the new natural surroundings.
This project started in 2020, focusing on the local population of Brown bears in the Dagestan mountains. Emphasis was laid on occurence and distribution of bears in Tsunta and Tlarata districts, south-western part of the Republic of Dagestan, confined to the northern slopes of the Great Caucasus Ridge. Human-Bear Conflict assessments were carried out and between 2020-2021 a total of 153 cases were registered. Mainly involved depredation on sheep. A year later, the total number increased to 171 cases.
One of the objectives is involving local people in the bear conservation program. The team was able to attract 18 locals, assisting mainly in anti-poaching activities. They were trained by gamekeepers of three local reserves. They collected information on possible poachers in villages of the study area. For nine months, anti-poaching teams detained 35 poachers who had no licenses to hunt and collected 59 illegal traps. 9 criminal and 41 administrative cases were opened, 11 fines issued and 14 arms confiscated. A year later, between 2021-2022, the anti-poaching teams arrested 75 poachers who were involved in illegal hunting activities. 15 criminal and 136 administrative cases were opened, 27 fines issued and 30 arms were confiscated.
Awareness raising is an important component of this project. The team use posters, guidebooks, school visits, leaflets, pictorial guides and community meetings to explain what they are doing and why. The main focus of these activities is to provide information about bears and other carnivore activities, their role in nature and possible competition with domestic livestock and accurate identification of killed livestock, so that people are able to distinguish depredation from other cause of loss, and can identify the species concerned so that the team can help them implement the most relevant methods to prevent further losses. In 2020, the team rolled-out the education program for 1,400 people, including; 800 school boys & girls, 600 adults. Involving of local people in the project is key objective of the project! Between 2021-2022, 1,700 people were reached in the education program; 1,000 school kids and 700 adults.
Bears in Mind will support this project into 2023.
The Brown bear (Ursus arctos) is one of the threatened large carnivore species in Armenia considered “Vulnerable” in the Red Data Book of Armenia. The species is under pressure because of habitat loss and degradation, caused by the anthropogenic persistent pressure across the country, illegal hunting, poaching and trapping. Furthermore, bear cubs are regularly captured from the wild and kept as pets. There is a lack of recent scientific data on population size, trends, distribution and behavior of Brown bears across the country. However, the research conducted in 2013 in Vayots dzor region suggests that a significant population of bears occurs in the region.
Since 2016, the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC) initiated a wild fruit tree nursery in the Caucasus Nature Reserve (CWR), focusing on reducing Human-Wildlife Conflict in Ararat and Vayots dzor regions by planting site-specific wild fruit trees. This provides nutrition from small songbirds to large mammals like bears. Since the project started, the FPWC planted more than 350,000 wild fruit trees aiming to restore the degraded lands, providing habitat for breeding, foraging and resting. Also, the land restoration programme target to tackle and minimize the climate change impact in the country.
The aim of the project supported by Bears in Mind since 2022, is to reduce and mitigate human-bear conflict in the Vayots dzor region by forming a “Rapid Response Group” to gather comprehensive data on the bear attacks and establishing site-specific wild fruit orchards and plantations to keep away the nuisance bears from the rural settlements and providing an alternative source of food and nutrition for bears and other wildlife in the long-term. Moreover, in the short term, the FPWC aims to establish a supplemental feeding programme for the bears feeding them with seasonal fruits and vegetables bought from the villagers of vulnerable communities.
Himalayan brown bears (HBBs) were common species in all mountain regions of Kyrgyzstan. However, due to anthropogenic factors in areas of habitat, the number was reduced, and in some places, the species disappeared. Locally called as aiu and used in many place names such Aiu-Bulak (spring of bear), Aiu-Tör (highland pasture of bear), or Aiu-Üngkür (cave of bear), indicating their much wider geographic presence in the past. Traditionally brown bears associated with the forest landscapes, however in conditions of the Central Asian region they occur in highland steppes as well. For instance, there is evidence of their presence in syrt zones, in alpine meadows of Khan-Tengiri mountains, Ak-Sai and Arpa highland valleys in Kyrgyzstan.
The goal of this research project by the International Mountain Institute, International University of Kyrgyzstan (supported by Bears in Mind since 2022), is to better understand and update the data on present distribution status, ecology and seasonal food habits of the HBBs. The main study site will be the Naryn State Nature Reserve, which is an important component of the habitat of nationally endangered brown bears, globally vulnerable snow leopards (Panthera uncia), Himalayan wolves and wild ungulate species such as argali, ibex, maral and roe deer.
A relatively high number of rehabilitated brown bear cubs have been released over the last years. However, do we know if these bears behave normally? Or do they present any kind of different behaviour compared with the totally wild ones? In this project a team from Fundacion Oso de Asturias (FOA) in Spain, together with experts from ARCTUROS and the IUCN Bear Specialist Group want to describe and compare the behaviours of released brown bears that have gone through a captive-rearing process (i.e. rehabilitated) with independent subadult bears that have been raised within their family group in the wild.
Specifically, the team wants to compare daily activity and movement patterns of subadult brown bears and their use or avoidance of anthropogenic habitats. On the other hand, the team also wants to evaluate complementary bear data considering other brown bear populations (e.g. British Columbia) or other bear species (e.g. American and Asiatic black bears).
The results of this study may be of particular interest for the management orphaned, wounded, or abandoned bear cubs, giving knowledge of how they behave after their release.