1. 1 Background
The Asiatic black bear is a fascinating bear with its awesome power, athletic built and intelligence. Its generic name means, “Moon bear” (Ernest 1968). It is known as ‘Dom’ in Bhotia, ‘’Sona’ in Lepcha, ‘Maggen’ in Limbu (Pocock 1932) and ‘Kalo bhalu’ in Nepali (Shrestha 1997). The literature shows that it has two common name; Asiatic black bear and Himalayan black bear for the “Kalo Bhalu”. This literature is used to Asiatic black bear for Kalo Bhalo’ (Ursus thibetanus), but somewhere it is also called Himalayan black bear. Of 8 species of bear, three species are available in Nepal such as Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), Brown bear (Ursus arctos) and Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus).
The Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) is distributed through much of southern Asia, northeastern China, far eastern Russia and Japan (Servheen 1990). In the Indian sub continent, it is distributed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bhutan. This distribution continues into Myanmar and Southeast Asia (JBN, 2006). Asiatic black bear is threatened in South Asia due to poaching for gall bladder (medicine), skin (ornamental), and retaliatory killings to reduce agricultural crop depredation (Servheen 1990).
Asiatic black bear is an inhabitant of deciduous, mixed woodland and moist temperate forest up to the permanent tree line and in the Himalayas rarely found at the elevation above 4000m (Grizimek 1990). In Nepal, it is confined to conifer and rhododendron forest and ascends up to 12,000 ft in summer and descends to 5, 000 ft in winter (Shrestha 1997). It is nocturnal and usually emerges at dusk and dawn; and bed to twigs in winter and on the fork of the tree in summer, where they usually feed (Ernest 1968). It is omnivores and its diet comprises more than 90% of plant materials (Hwang et al. 2000).
1.2 Conservation status
The Asiatic black bear is not included in the protected animals’ species in Nepal under the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 (NPWC Act 1973). The CITES appendices, 1995 included it under Appendix-I. CITES is the world’s main way of protecting threatened and endangered wildlife from the disastrous effects of international trade. The CITES treaty involves trade restrictions for species listed in different Appendices, that is Appendix I includes species in danger of extinction which are or may be affected by international trade. Commercial trade of such species is strictly prohibited. Conservation status is IUCN Red List- Vulnerable, US Federal List-Endangered.
Currently, Asiatic black bears are distributed throughout the eastern to western ranges of hills and mountains of Nepal. The distribution of Asiatic black bears in the parks areas are listed out by the literature review and personnel communication. The name of these parks are as follows Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, Makalu Barun National Park, Sagarmatha National Park, Annapurna Conservation area, Manasalu Conservation area, Langtang National Park, Shivapuri National Park, Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Rara National Park, Khaptad National Park and Shey- phoksundo National Park (Yadav, et. al, 2008).
Asian bears face a particularly destructive combination of threats such as poaching for bear parts, habitat loss and habitat degradation as well as a critical lack of knowledge about their status, distribution, and requirements for survival. Many bear populations in these areas will disappear before they are ever documented (Servheen et. al.1999). No information is available on the status of Asiatic black bear in Nepal (Servheen 1990, Servheen et. al.1999). Bears are killed to use in Chinese medicine and to serve as soup in Asian and North American countries (Servheen 1989).
The reason for selecting DHR was that there were no information exists on the status, distribution, and the extent of Asiatic black bear-human conflicts from DHR. Only reports of high bear-human conflicts received from the local people and annual report of DHR. In Nepal, there is lack of information about Asiatic black bear due to various factors such as lack of research and trained man power. The conservation and management efforts will only be successful when we have the information on this species. Since the study of this species has not been done so far in Nepal, this study was conducted with a view to add some information on this species.
1. Assess the interface between human and Asiatic black bear with special emphasis on the following:
Anthropogenic pressures on bear habitat
Crop raiding behaviors and bear’s preferences for agricultural crops.
2. Map the distribution and potential habitat area of Asiatic black bear
3. Identify the causes for conflicts and ‘high conflict zones’ for mitigation planning.
4. Raising conservation awareness activities to change local people attitude towards the conservation of Asiatic black bear.
Chapter-2: STUDY AREA
2.1 Study Area:
The study was conducted in Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve (DHR). It was established in 1983 and gazzeted in 1987. It lies at 8250’ to 8315’ E longitude to 28 27’ 30” to 28 50’ N latitude and ranges from 2,000 m to 7,246 m elevation. The east-west length is 28-44 km and north – south width is 37 km. DHR is the only hunting reserve in the country to meet the needs of Nepalese and foreign hunters of blue sheep and other game animals. The trophy hunting in this reserve initiated since the beginning of the seventies (Austegard and Haugland 1993). Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve is situated in the Himalayan ecological zone of mid western Nepal occupying an area of 1,325 Km2 with extension of 795 km2 (60%) in Rukum district, 292 km2 (22%) in Baglung district and 238 km2 (17.96%) in Myagdi district. All the districts represent temperate to alpine ecosystems enriching endemic, threatened and economically important species (DNPWC, 2008).
The reserve is located on the southern flanks of the Dhaulagiri Himalayan range and is surrounded by villages from all sides except in the north. High Himalayan ranges and peaks Gurja, Putha, Churen etc. delineate the northern border of the reserve. The southern border limits to the Surtibang and holy river Uttarganga (Wilson 1981). Dhorkhani, Jhalke and Lamakyang range border the eastern part and Kharibanh khola, Pelma khola, Kulta, Bhanjyang and Jangla limit the western border. The reserve lies on an important trading route from Tarakot and Dolpo to the north. During the summer many Hindu pilgrims visit the area (BPP 1995).
2.1.1. Caste composition:
The major ethnic groups of the users of the reserve are Magar, Brahmin, Chhetri, Kami, Damai, Thakali, etc. The ethnic groups of the reserve are famed as Nauthar such as Adai, Bhandari, Chhotabhandari, Mateadai, Kather, Kayat, Khadka, Kumai, and Thapa. The average household size of the users is 6.35. The major occupations of the local people were livestock rearing, farming and forest products collection. The major livestock are goat, sheep, cow, ox, buffalo and horse etc.
2.1.2. General climate
The climatic variation is high because of the varied topography and elevation. Winter is severe with temperature below freezing point and frequent snowfall above 2,500 m altitude. Occasional heavy snowfall closes the trails for several days and snow avalanches frequently pose threats to local people, livestock and wildlife.
2.1.3. Current land use
Most of the area is barrenland followed by grassland, forest and shrubland. The forest is mainly situated along the river valley and slopes are covered by shrub and grassland. The area above the tree line was covered by rhododendron, juniper and cotoneaster scrubs.
2.1.4. Forest types
There are different types of forest observed during the field survey Abies-Pinus forest, Quercus-Pecea, Rhododendron-Birch, Acer- cappadociccum and Abies-Arundinaria. Arundinaria and Quercus forest is important to black bear according to the local people.
The area Dhorpatan Hunting reserve is rich in endemic species and threatened species. The northwestern Nepal particularly the area between Kaligandaki and Karnali rivers has been considered as exceptionally rich in endemism (Shrestha and Joshi 1996).
More than 50% of the reserve area is covered by open grassland and snow. The reserve is prime habitat of Blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur). Other animals are Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis), Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), Musk deer (Moschus chrysogastur), Snow leopard (Panthera uncial uncia), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Ghoral (Nemorhaedus goral), Wolf (Canis lupus), Red panda (Ailurus fulgens), Barking deer (Muntiacus reevesi), Wild dog (Cuon alpinus), Wild boar (Sus scrofa), Himalayan Thar (Hemitragus jemlahicus), Red fox (Valpes vulpes), Mouse hare (Ochotona roylei), Cheer pheasant (Catreus wallichii), Danphe (Lophophorus impejanus), Monal (Tragopan satyra), Snow patridge (Lerwa lerwa), etc (DNPWC,2008).
Livelihood of the local people of DHR and its catchment area is versatile. Most of the people do migratory settlement due to climatic conditions and resources availability. They do descend down during winter and ascend up during summer. Both the purposes are related to storing forage and feeding their livestock and to sustain there in the reserve area. They do their household work and storing cereal crops (Oat (Waa), Potato) during September-November.
Figure 1: Map of Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve