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1 May 2013 Status of bears in Bangladesh: going, going, gone?
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Three species of bears occur in Bangladesh, but most populations have declined to very low numbers or disappeared completely. No systematic surveys have been conducted to determine status and distribution of the remnant populations. Therefore, we conducted surveys at 87 sites with historical records of bears. Footprints, claw marks, and other signs were used to identify bears to species level. In addition, semi-structured interviews were carried out targeting local community members to determine the status of bears. Bear signs were documented in 26 sites in the northeast, 42 sites in the southeast, and 1 site in the north-central region of Bangladesh. With the exception of a single sign that presumably came from a sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), all were identified as Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus). Additionally, we documented one recent occurrence of a captive sun bear captured in the southeastern region of Bangladesh not covered in our survey. We conclude that the sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) is possibly extinct in Bangladesh. Although Asiatic black bear signs were recorded from many sites, the populations are scattered and likely to be very low in numbers. Similarly, the single confirmed record of sun bear suggests that the species is possibly a vagrant from adjoining Indian populations and the populations in Bangladesh are not self-sustaining. Deforestation and hunting are major threats to bears in Bangladesh. Unless urgent conservation measures are taken and degraded forest areas are restored, we suspect that the Asiatic black bear may soon become extinct in Bangladesh.

International Association for Bear Research and Management

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