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Research in Hormozgan
In 2009, a project was initiated in cooperation with the Ministry of DoE in the province of Hormozgan, Iran – to map the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus) population and to find out what the main threats to the population were. This was achieved by using camera traps and through interviews with people living in the area. Analysis of the images  made an estimation of the size and distribution of the population possible. From the interviews it appeared that the distribution area is larger than researchers first assumed, as local people had also spotted bears in neighbouring areas. It also became clear that the number of human-bear conflicts in the area was considerable.

The researchers now have distribution maps of the bears, they know where many human-bear conflicts take place and have more information about the bear’s ecology and what threatens the species’ existence. This formed a solid basis for the next project which will take a further 10 years to complete! Bashagard has been selected as the pilot study area. In this area there are many bears and many human-bear conflicts and the living standards of the local human population is quite low.

Together with the local people
Following analysis of the social, economic and cultural status of the local people, an action plan has been put together in cooperation with various Ministries including the Ministry of Agriculture, the Environment, Education, Culture and Tourism. The objective of the plan is to protect the Asian black bear together with the local people of Bashagard, who will then be able to support their own existence!

Bears in Mind supported the initial years of the project, during which further research into the ecology, biology and distribution in the black bear population will be conducted. This will be done through camera trap images, scats, scrapes and looking for winter dens. In order to reduce human-bear conflict, an experiment was done which allowed local people to buy insurance against any damage done by bears to either lifestock or crops. In addition, an indepth educational programme has been established, which focuses mainly on the role of the bear within the ecosystem and on the possibility that people can coexist with bears. People also learned about overgrazing, erosion, setting up small businesses and establishing a nature area in which they themselves play an important role and which also secures their livelihood.


Asiatic Black Bear Project / Earth’s Whisper

A Bears in Mind-funded research study between 2010-2013 conducted by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) focused mainly on Female Core Areas. These are areas inhabited by female bears, often with their offspring. Therefore, it is important to carefully protect these areas. More in-depth knowledge will help the government to implement stricter and more specific conservation measures. In the long run, these measures will contribute to the survival of bears in Iran. A national Brown Bear Management Plan will be formulated based on the research results.

Protecting the bears
This research will lead to the creation of a topical database containing numbers, distribution and information about the genetic relationship among brown bears. This data will be used in training sessions and workshops for the Iranian authorities, responsible for protecting the bears and their habitat. This knowledge will enable them to better address the problem of poaching.

All gathered data combined and analyzed, it shows us that brown bears prefer habitats far from human settlements and tend to prefer habitats with higher slope and elevation. As a result, more than 13% of Lorestan territory is considered to be suitable for the species. However, official protection has been established within no more than 27.7 % of the species suitable areas. These findings highlight further importance of enhancing bear conservation across the Province and probably, the entire Zagros region through identification of high priority areas, particularly in southern province.

Finally, management implications have been discussed and shared with local authorities. All the data were also shared with Lorestan Department of Environment so they can promote monitoring plans.