The Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus), also known as the moon bear or white-chested bear, is a medium-sized species of bear, largely adapted for arboreal life, seen across much of the Himalayas and the northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent, Taiwan, Korea, northeastern China, the Russian far east and the Honshū and Shikoku islands of Japan. It is classed by the IUCN as a vulnerable species, mostly due to deforestation and active hunting for its body parts. The species is morphologically very similar to some prehistoric bears, and is thought by some scientists to be the ancestor of other extant bear species.Though largely herbivorous, Asian black bears can be very aggressive toward humans, and have frequently attacked people without provocation. The species was described by Rudyard Kipling as “the most bizarre of the ursine species.”
Widespread hunting and loss of habitat pose a serious threat to this bear. As a result, populations have declined across its range.
Asiatic Black Bears are medium sized bears, their body length being between 1.3 and 1.9 m (4.25 – 6.25 ft), their tail length is not recorded and they weigh between 100 and 200 Kgs (220 – 440 lbs). They have long, black fur with a distinctive crescent shaped white/cream marking distinguished by a V of white fur on their chest. The fur around their shoulders and throat is longer than that elsewhere. They have relatively large ears, strong legs, sharp claws and they are very adept at bipedal walking. It is similar in appearance to the brown bear, but with a slighter build. They are skillful climbers and may spend up to half their time in the trees, and many of them are known to hibernate during the winter months. They are also quite aggressive towards humans and are known to have caused fatalities. Habitat They are found in the forested regions of East, South and South East Asia. They prefer hills and mountainous areas with coniferous forests to an elevation of 4,300mand they are solitary except for mothers with cubs. They have a home range between 10 and 20 Kms (6 – 12 miles) and sometimes these ranges overlap those of the giant panda and the brown bear.
Population & Distribution
The Asiatic black bear occupies a narrow band from southeastern Iran through Afghanistan and Pakistan, across the foothills of the Himalayas, to Myanmar. It occupies all countries in mainland Southeast Asia except Malaysia and has a patchy distribution in southern China. Another population cluster exists in northeastern China, the southern Russian Far East, and into North Korea. A small remnant population exists in South Korea. They also live on the southern islands of Japan (Honshu and Shikoku) and on Taiwan (China) and Hainan. There are no accurate estimates of population size available.
Asiatic Black Bears are omnivores and their diet mainly consists of fruit, berries, seeds, nuts, grasses, honey, invertebrates, birds, fish, rodents, other small mammals and carrion. Breeding Mating occurs from June to July and during January and February 1 – 4 cubs are born in the winter den. When the cubs are born they are blind, helpless and totally dependent on their mother. The cubs stay with their mother for 2 – 3 years and they become sexually mature between the ages of 3 and 4. Predators Their main predators are humans as they are hunted for their gall bladder, which is used in Asian cuisine and medicines.
Illegal hunting for body parts, specifically the gall bladder, paws and skin poses the main threat, together with habitat loss caused by logging, expansion of human settlements and roads.
There is one true subspecies of Asiatic Black Bear, Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus, which is found in Southern Pakistan. Interesting Facts Asiatic Black Bears are also known as: Tibetan Black Bear Himalayan Black Bear Moon Bear
Asiatic Black Bear Distribution map world wide