Asiatic Black Bear

ZOO LOCATION: Bear Grottos

Lifespan: Up to 25 years

Wild Diet: Mainly carnivorous, but also invertebrates, honey, fruit, nuts, berries, grasses and herbs

Zoo Diet: Omnivore diet, carnivore meat, fruits and vegetables

Predators: none

SSP: no

IUCN Status: Vulnerable

Habitat/Range: Wet forests in southern Asia including Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, China and also further north into Russia, Korea, Taiwan and Japan

Characteristics: Asiatic Black Bears look very similar to their American counterpart with stocky, black bodies, round heads and large ears. Male bears of this species can weigh 200-400 lbs. and females only 100-250lbs. These bears have very short claws but are very good tree climbers. They have a thick manes of fur and a cream-colored, crescent-shaped area on their chests; the same coloring is found around their lips and chin.

Behavior: Asiatic Black Bears are mostly solitary but may also live in small maternal families. They are mainly nocturnal and spend most of their day in trees sleeping and eating. Their home range depends on the amount of food in the area, but is usually less than half a square mile. Asiatic black bears, like their North America cousins vary their diets based on the seasons and food availability. In the fall they fatten up on a variety of nuts and seeds, while in the spring they eat mostly greening plants and fruits. When food is scarce, these bears sometimes get themselves into trouble, as they may raid farms for livestock or crops and killing trees. Like other bears, Asiatic black bears will den in the winter when food is less available and sleep up to 5 months at time, but this is not a true hibernation.

Reproduction: One to two cubs are born in late December to late March, mostly in February. Breeding seasons vary with bears in the northern and southern range of their habitats. Those in the north tend to breed in the summer and those in the south tend to breed in the fall. Gestation lasts about 210 days. Asiatic black bears are mature at 3-4 years of age and females with yearlings only breed every other season. Young stay with their mothers for approximately two years.

Conservation: The immediate threat to Asiatic Black Bears is illegal hunting, sale of body parts and loss of habitat. Farmers kill the bears threaten their livestock and crops. The bears are also unpopular because they strip the bark from valuable timber trees and therefore reducing their value. In addition to "trouble bears" being poached because of human/bear conflict, these bears are also hunted for the use of their gallbladders in traditional Chinese medicine. Deforestation is a problem for these bears as it disconnects their home ranges with that of other bears of the same species and diminishes food sources as well.

Asiatic black bears are protected by law in all of the countries where they occur, except Japan. It is also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which bans international trade in this species. Increased law enforcement to protect wild animals from poaching and smuggling of illegal trade is essential to their survival. The protection of habitat is also vital to the survival of this species.