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Asian Black Bear Fact File

Ursus thibetanus

Credit: Laura Wolf, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

100-200kg

(220-440lbs)

Length

1.2-1.9m

(4-6.25ft)

Lifespan

Wild 25 years

Captive 30 years

Diet

Omnivore

Fruit, Insects, Honey

Conservation Status

IUCN

Vulnerable

The Asian black bear is also known as the moon bear due to the crescent shaped patch of white fur on their chest.

They are found across much of Asia where they feed on a range of fruits, insects, honey and mammals up to the size of water buffalo. They will also scavenge tiger kills.

Females give birth during winter which is also when they will undertake a hibernation period in the northern areas of their range.

Unfortunately these animals are highly threatened due to the illegal wildlife trade with high demand for their paws and bile for use in traditional medicines. Habitat loss and fragmentation is another major factor in their decline.

Read on to learn more about these amazing animals.

Appearance

What does the Asian black bear look like?

Asian black bears are also referred to as the moon bear as a result of white, crescent shaped patch on their chest. White fur is present on the muzzle and as some small spots on the chin. The rest of the body is colored by black-brown fur.

In parts of their range rare color morphs such as blonde and black individuals can be found.

On top of their head is a large pair of ears with short fur across it.

At the end of the body is a short tail measuring between 6.5 and 10.6cm (2.6-4.2in) long. Often this is barely visible due to their long fur.

An average Asian black bear will measure 1.2-1.9m (4-6.25ft) long with a weight of 100-200kg (220-440lbs). At the shoulder they stand 70-100cm (27.6-39.4in) tall. Females are smaller than males.

Diet

What does the Asian black bear eat?


The Asiatic black bear is an omnivore which feeds on a range of small mammals, birds, fungi insects such as termites, fruit and honey. On occasion they have been recorded to take large prey such as water buffalo.

Larger prey can also be scavenged from kills made by tigers.

Asian black bear

Credit: Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Where can you find the Asian black bear?

Asia is the native home of the Asian black bear. Here they can be found in the following countries – Afghanistan; Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China; India; Iran; Japan; Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Republic of Korea; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Russia; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand and Viet Nam.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the Asian black bear live in?

They make their home in forest, shrubland, grassland and wetlands.

These bears will move around in their habitat during the year to exploit variations in food availability. During summer they will live at higher elevations before descending to the lowlands over winter.

During the day they will seek shelter in a rock cave or tree hollow.

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Reproduction

How does the Asian black bear produce its young?

Breeding takes place from June to July. They are promiscuous and can have multiple partners each breeding season. Larger males will gain more opportunities to mate than smaller individuals.

Females give birth to between one and three cubs following an eight month gestation period. Birthing occurs during winter and females with cubs will remain in the den regardless of whether they are hibernating or not.

At birth the cubs eyes are closed and they will not open them for at least one week.

Weaning occurs by 3 months old but cubs remain with their mother until two or three years old.

Sexual maturity is reached between 4 and 4 years old.

Behavior

What does the Asian black bear do with its day?

These animals are able to climb in to the trees. Much of their day is spent up in the canopy. They are also capable swimmers.

In the cooler parts of their range they will undertake a period of hibernation. From November to April they will spend a period of time sleeping. They must eat large amounts of food prior as a female will lose up to half her body weight in this period.

Debate exists as to whether this is a true hibernation. The pulse rate and metabolic rate drops but the animals body temperature does not drop significantly and they can be awakened.

The legs of the Asian black bear are strong and allow them to walk upright on just the back two legs.

Asian black bears exhibit a variable activity pattern across their range. In more open habitats and areas with more human activity they tend to be nocturnal but in forested areas they are often active during the day.

They are solitary for most of the year though they may forage with a mate during the breeding season.

Each individual will maintain a large home range.

Asian black bear

Credit: Shiv's fotografia, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the Asian black bear?

Siberian tigers are the main predator of the Asian black bear. They may come in to conflict when tigers return to finish feeding at kills which are being scavenged by a bear.

These animals are threatened through habitat loss and fragmentation due to road and dam projects.

Asian black bears are seen as the most desirable species of bear in the illegal wildlife trade. Their skin, paws and internal organs such as gall bladders are used in traditional medicines and food. They are also used to deter ghosts in some areas.

Synthetic versions of the main compound in bear bile have been created but unfortunately it is seen as more effective in traditional medicine if it comes from a bear.

This species is also traded as a pet and captures from the wild occur to fuel this trade. They have also been used in bear baiting and were used as part of the dancing bear tradition.

Human-bear conflict is increasing and in some areas has led to high mortality for the bears involved.

Quick facts

These animals may also be known as the Tibetan black bear or the Himalayan black bear. Their alternative name of moon bear is derived from the crescent shaped patch of white fur on the chest.

Fossil records suggest that the range of the Asian black bear previously stretched as far as France and Germany.

Asian black bear

Credit: Shiv's fotografia, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Woodward, J. and Bryan, K., 2016. DK knowledge encyclopedia Animal!. London: Dorling Kindersley

Garshelis, D. & Steinmetz, R. 2020. Ursus thibetanus (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T22824A166528664. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T22824A166528664.en. Downloaded on 23 September 2021.

Bearsoftheworld.net. 2021. Asiatic Black Bears – Bears Of The World. [online] Available at: <http://www.bearsoftheworld.net/asiatic_black_bears.asp> [Accessed 23 September 2021].

Goodness, T. 2004. "Ursus thibetanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 23, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Ursus_thibetanus/

World Land Trust. 2021. Asiatic Black Bear – World Land Trust. [online] Available at: <https://www.worldlandtrust.org/species/mammals/asiatic-black-bear/> [Accessed 23 September 2021].

Bearconservation.org.uk. 2021. Asiatic black bear – Bear Conservation. [online] Available at: <http://www.bearconservation.org.uk/asiatic-black-bear/> [Accessed 23 September 2021].

International Association for Bear Research and Management. 2021. Asiatic Black Bear | International Association for Bear Research and Management. [online] Available at: <https://www.bearbiology.org/bear-species/asiatic-black-bear/> [Accessed 23 September 2021].

Ecologyasia.com. 2021. Asiatic Black Bear – Ursus thibetanus. [online] Available at: <https://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/mammals/asiatic-black-bear.htm> [Accessed 23 September 2021].

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