The status of Sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) outside of protected areas in Nepal is unclear. This new project supported by Bears in Mind aims to investigate Sloth bear distribution, habitat use and conservation threats for the first time in a critical corridor of Lumbini Province.
Anecdotal records of bear signs, seizure of bear skin and bile, and very recent capturing of a bear cub in retaliation to a conflict event suggest a threatened Sloth bear population. Therefore, this project seeks to break barriers to Sloth bear conservation by initiating bear-specific research and conservation activities using camera traps, sign surveys, and evaluation of habitat and conservation threats.
The project also seeks to bring awareness and ignite bear monitoring and conservation through community outreach activities. Outputs from the project will be valuable for local-level conservation and development planning and for formulating a national bear conservation strategy and action plan for Nepal.
Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) habitat is being degraded and fragmented in the Indian sub-continent. More than 85% of the Sloth bear population occurs in India, which is facing multiple threats such as habitat fragmentation, degradation and human-sloth bear conflict. While protected Sloth bear habitats are studied well, Sloth bear ranges in unprotected area have a lack of information and research. It is very important to understand the status and movement of Sloth bears in non-protected areas for conservation actions.
Previous studies also reveal that most of the Sloth bear attacks are prevailing in the non-protected areas and in the villages on the fringes of forests. The present research, carried out by WCB Lab, Department of Life Sciences, Hemchandracharya North Gujarat University, aims to study habitat quality, movement of Sloth bear and Human-Bear Conflicts in non-protected areas of Gujarat state of western India. It is felt that the findings of this research study would be lighten up status of Sloth bear and its habitat in Gujarat and would be also helpful in preparing conservation and management plans for such non-protected forest areas of the state, focusing on Sloth bear conservation and mitigating Human-Bear Conflicts.
Bears in Mind financially supports the research by WCB Lab in India since 2022.
In India, habitat fragmentation and destruction is one of the main threats to bears, others being poaching for bile extraction (this has started in India according to a recent report), poaching for meat (rampant in some states) and human/animal conflict within or near the forest.
India is very progressive when it comes to bear education. Bears in Mind has supported the educational work of the local NGO Zoo Outreach Organisation (ZOO). Their education project reaches schools, zoos and museums. Back in the day, the problems with dancing bears in India are considerable. Several thousands of cubs, usually sloth bears, were been taken from their mothers and trained to be dancing bears. ZOO managed to make people aware of the suffering that is caused by this ancient, yet cruel tradition. Between 2002-2012 teaching packages were made with financial support of Bears in Mind. These packages consisted of all sorts of educational games, t-shirts, stickers and posters. More importantly, information about the way brown bears, sloth bears, Asiatic black bears and Sun bears in India were threatened, was included. India is the only country with four different bear species and it is therefore very important to protect them all.
ZOO Outreach Organization has been working with Bears in Mind for 10 years to improve the welfare of bears in India as well as their conservation in the wild. This has been done entirely with education, starting with a conservation education programme aimed at two groups; the visiting public (or organisations which educate them) and the zoo directors of zoos that have bears in their collection. 6,000 bear packets have been printed and ordered by 59 organisation and 8,000 posters have been printed and ordered by 56 different organizations.
In the 2000s, approximately 600 dancing bears were counted in India. By 2009 all were saved and relocated by Wildlife SOS, to their four dancing bear sanctuaries. This organization does not only save the bears, it also provided the former bear owners with an alternative livelihood. Bears in Mind supported Wildlife SOS in such projects.
Wildlife SOS dealt with the problem by addressing it at the source. As soon as an alert came in, about a dancing bear, the intervention team from Wildlife SOS and the responsible authorities rushed to the location. The bear was confiscated and the owner apprehended. Following this, a social program was started, in collaboration with the Indian government. The bear was the main source of income for these poor families of the Kalandar communities. Wildlife SOS helped the families to develop new means of income. The owner got 50,000 rupee for compensation, the children were sent to school and the owner was assisted in finding an alternative way to earn income for his family.
Since the end of 2009, no more bears danced the streets of India. Read more here:
With financial help of Bears in Mind, four young Sloth bears were rescued and brought to the shelter of the Karuna Society for Animals and Nature (2009). The purpose of this organization is to provide a first and safe haven for the bears. The organization has close contact with the government and the larger rescue centers in India. Once there is permanent place for the bear(s), it will be moved to one of the specialized centers. Besides bears, the Karuna Society for Animals and Nature also rescues other (wild) animals. Animals are reintroduced back into the wild whenever this is possible. Bears however, have often been in contact with humans for too long and will become too habituated to people, making release in the wild impossible.
Bear Alert is developed by Bears in Mind to keep track of the many captive bears, often living under horrible conditions, in order to help as many individuals as possible. Over time, Bears in Mind has gathered information on more than 400 of these bears. Some of them have already been rescued from their miserable existence and brought to a sanctuary or zoo where proper care and space could be offered. Other bears unfortunately died before we could we do anything. But most of them still await a better life…
The individual reports about bears will be processed into a database. Short term solutions will be considered next. In most cases Bears in Mind staff will consult with her local partner NGO and / or with the owner of the animal to give advise on husbandry, food and water. Simple enrichment methods for the cages are used such as leafy tree branches or a play object. These methods are often cheap and easy to create and make the life of the bear somewhat more pleasant. In other cases, if legally possible, bears will be confiscated and relocated to a better facility.