Conservation of Himalayan brown bear

Saira Hafeez

PAKISTAN has a unique variety of habitats and ecosystems which contributes to its richness of biodiversity. Every type of ecosystem has distinct size, composition, and wild resources such as, southern areas of the country have coastal ecosystem which offers a blend of arid and desert habitats to a number of species for sustaining their lives. The northern mountainous areas of Pakistan, on the other hand, have a harsh environment and yet they are said to be a paradise for the wildlife species.
Among many beautiful animal species found in these mountains, one remarkable example is the Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus). These bears have sandy or reddish-brown coloration with a noticeable hunch of long hair over the shoulders, small rounded ears, and protruding lips.Theyare mostly found in areas above the treeline, temperate grasslands, and alpine meadows.
Himalayan brown bears may look frightening due to their gigantic size and carnivorous nature but they never pose threat to humans as they tend to stay away from humans unless the fight is provoked. Humans are the ones to encroach their habitats and kill this beautiful creature cold-bloodedly, posing an imminent threat to their existence. Himalayan brown bears were once found in quite a number but there has been a conspicuous decline in their population over the past few decades. According to WWF, just 2% of the brown bear population is currently occupying certain regions of Himalaya as compared to the former population size. The major threats include habitat degradation and fragmentation, human-bear conflict, and illegal poaching and trade by hunters, making it one of the critically endangered species of Pakistan. Brown bears are mostly hunted due to the lack of awareness regarding their ecological importance, medicinal use of their organs, and trade of bear cubs for sports like bear fighting and circus.
Deforestation due to substantial increase in human population and increased urbanization trend is the main reason fordegrading the habitats of the Himalayan brown bear which leads to lack of food availability and increased encounter with humans, both resulting in an enhanced mortality rate of the animal. Lack of meat availability accounts for the change in species’ feeding behavior and reduced productivity because when the brown bears don’t find meat, they feed on lizards, insects, fruits, nuts, and tree stems.The survival of this magnificent wild species requires protection of its remaining population and the habitats it resides in.
WWF-Pakistan and HMF (Himalayan Wildlife Foundation) in collaboration with Pakistan government is making an effort to save the remaining population of these brown bears by locating all of their habitats and allocating them as protected.The information regarding the current population status of brown bears, their breeding behavior, feeding habits, and habitats has been collected using scientific methods. The conservative measures include integrated research on resolving the human-bear conflict, raising awareness in public regarding the ecological importance of bears, strict law enforcement on poaching and trade of animals, and effective implementation of existing conservation strategies. Capacity building of public will motivate them to protect the critically endangered wildlife species from external threats to their existence. Moreover, the strict regulation of laws will prevent the hunters from killing this magnificent creature for whatever purpose in order to save the bears from human cruelty. Such efforts will promote the conservation of Himalayan brown beers in Pakistan and save them from joining the extinction list.

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