The rare and endangered Asiatic black bear (Ursusthibetanus) has been spotted in Cambodia’s protected areas, according to the Ministry of Environment. The bear species is present in several different regions including East, South and Southeast Asia.
According to the ministry’s publication on July 1, Asiatic black bears live in many forest types such as dense, semi-dense and mixed forests.
In Cambodia, the bears are present in protected areas in the northeast, east, north and southwest, and in Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Pursat, Kampong Speu and Koh Kong provinces. The bears are a diverse species of predators and are omnivores.
The ministry said the bears start breeding at the age of 4-5 and usually breed between June and July, giving birth during November to March, and typically have to two cubs at a time. The bears can live up to 30 years.
The bears are threatened by a number of factors, including habitat loss, hunting, and illegal wildlife trade for live bears and animal parts.
However, ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post on July 1 that Cambodia had not yet received a report on the number of bears.
Pheaktra said that in the past, Cambodia has found Large-antlered muntjacor (Muntiacus vuquangensis), Giant manta (Muntiacusvuquangensis), Golden yellow tigers, and Asiatic black bears which are rare species, all of which will be the basis of a research study and for a group of officials specialising in the division of protected areas.
“Asiatic black bears are declining in numbers due to habitat loss, lack of foraging sites and hunting for commercial specimens. Asiatic black bears are found in Cambodia in dense and semi-dense forest habitats,” he said.
According to Pheaktra, this large bear species is also present in Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, northern Laos and Vietnam. These are among the largest of bears.
The body is covered with long, thick, brown hair and has a light yellow V-shaped stripe across its chest. The ears are larger than those of a small bear, and has a head 1,200 to 1,500mm in length with males weighing 110kg to 150kg.
The females weigh 65kg to 90kg with feet shaped like a human foot.
Ken Serey Rotha, Wildlife Conservation Society country director, welcomed the discovery of the rare and endangered bear species, which confirmed the effectiveness of conservation in Cambodia.
However, Serey Rotha also requested that the Asiatic black bear habitat be monitored because although it is still extensive, some habitat is under pressure forcing bears to move into protected areas. Protection should also be increased, along with strict law enforcement as this information will also pique the interest of hunters.