Study reveals first photographic capture of Asiatic bears

PESHAWAR: A scientific study in the Swat Valley has helped capture photographs of Asiatic bears for the first time in the Hindu Kush mountain range, in addition to finding new information on feeding habits, the period of hibernation and the threats hanging over the dark beast.

The study titled “Spatial distribution, daily activity and human-bear conflict patterns of Ursus thibetanus in the Hindu Kush Mountains, Pakistan”, is led by Faizan Ahmad, a M Phil Fellow from the University of Haripur.

Renowned zoologists and scholars including Muhammad Ali Nawaz of Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF), Dr. Muhammad Kabir of Haripur University and others supervised the research work.

“We investigated the distribution, activity pattern and human-bear conflict of the Asiatic black bear in the Hindu Kush, a major mountain system in Pakistan and our study was conducted from October 2020 to December 2020 in Bahrain Valley of Swat district,” Faizan said. Ahmad while talking with APP.

Sharing the research results, Faizan said we first carried out a preliminary survey for signs of the bear’s presence and then set up infrared sensor camera traps in potential suitable habitat for the bear. , 23 locations for 152 trap nights, in order to monitor its activity.

The Asiatic black bear was photographed at 12 camera stations with 60 different capture events.

We obtained a trap success percentage of 64.8% between 2100 m and 2400 m above sea level, while the total trap success calculated for the entire trapping survey by bear camera was 39.5%.

Faizan said it was the first time photographic evidence of Asiatic bears had been made in the Hindu Kush mountains.

Currently, he continued, the bear has disappeared from most of its historic range in Pakistan, including Ayubia National Park, Astor, Chitral, Gilgit, Diamer and Skardu.

In this study, we investigated the distribution, activity pattern, and human-bear conflicts in this uncharted region to provide important information on the conservation and population status of the bear.

To understand human-bear interactions, interview-based questionnaire surveys were conducted and using a simple random sampling method interviewing about 10% of households in all villages, he added. .

We recorded a total of 91 different signs such as tracks, droppings, digging and uprooting of plants, food scraps, scrapes, scratches/markings on trees, roosting sites and trails , he told APP.

About 81.3% of the signs were recorded as fresh, about one month old, such as pug marks on fresh snow or claw marks on recently damaged Diospyros lotuses or fresh droppings, while 18 .7% were considered old (1-12 months). .

The tracks made by the bears were mainly in the forest of Quercus near feeding sites or water points.

The stunning finding from the research study was that the bears were found active until late December walking at lower elevations of the Quercus forests, Faizan shared and added that this is the time for hibernation of the Asiatic bear.

Besides mature female and male bears, their cubs were also found not hibernating in sub-zero temperatures until late December, he continued.

We also didn’t find any signs of bears in the deep snow at the highest elevations in late fall and winter.

Faizan urged further scientific studies on Asiatic bear behavior change, especially on its hibernation period.

The reasons why bears are active in sub-zero temperatures should be discovered, either due to less snowfall, change in eating habits, etc., he suggested. .

About the human-bear conflict, the researcher informed that about 107 people were surveyed and it was found that bear attacks on goats and sheep were higher than other animals.

Investigators also reported seven bear attacks on humans (herders or hunters) in different seasons in the study area.

“The local community perceives the bear as a significant threat to livestock and agriculture,” Faizan said.

“Our study has provided new information on the presence of the bear in the Hindu Kush mountain system in Pakistan and provided crucial data for its conservation and management,” he says.

Michael E. Marquez