The Asian Black Bear,
also known as the Moon Bear or Asiatic Bear, is a species of bear found
in an extensive geographical range in the Asian continent. The population of
this threatened species is diminishing at a regular pace mainly because of
poaching and illegal hunting for making traditional medicine especially in China.
Size: The head to tail length of the bear is 1.2 to 1.9 m.
Weight: Males can weigh anything between 60 and 200 kg, while the females are between 40 and 140.
structure is medium but often hefty with loosely-folded skin.
Fur or Hair Color: The
coat is shaggy, rough, and is completely black (as their name suggests) except
for the creamy white, angular to crescent-shaped mark on the chest.
Head/Face: It has
a long, light-brown muzzle, rounded ears, and
eyes, with the characteristic fur around neck being exceptionally long and mane-like,
and a strong dentition with rows of sharp teeth.
Sexual Dimorphism: They
do not exhibit any distinct differences between the sexes, except that the
males tend to be larger and heavier.
In captivity, the longevity of these bears is maximum 35
years, whereas in the wild, it is up to 25-30 years.
The range of the Asian black bears spreads across the Himalayas, in the northern parts of the Indian
subcontinent, NE China, Korea, the Honshū and Shikoku islands of Japan, the
Russian Far East, and Taiwan.
Moon bears seem to prefer moist forests, steep mountaintops, and areas with dense and thick vegetation.
Classification of Species
The Asian black bear has been classified under seven
biological subspecies, depending on the size and regions. They are Himalayan black bear, Formosan black bear, Baluchistan
or Pakistan black bear, Japanese black bear, Indochinese black bear, Tibetan black
bear, and Ussuri black bear, with the last being the largest of them all.
This species of bear are
crepuscular, which means, they are more active during dawn and dusk. At night, they
prefer sleeping on the treetop and often
search for permanent shelters in the hollow trunks, as well as in the caves.
They are excellent swimmers and climbers. They normally walk
on all fours, but would usually stand on their hind legs while trying to reach
food, or while fighting.
During the winter months, they usually become less active like
they are in the summer. Those that live in the colder or mountainous areas tend
to hibernate between November and April, while the others migrate to lower and warmer
The adults of the species are usually solitary, living in large territories that can span between 6 and 10
km. However, it has also been noted that
those living in nature reserves, where there is an absence of competition for
food research, most of the individuals get adapted to living in groups.
Sounds, Calls & Vocalization
These mammals are extremely intelligent creatures, and communicate with each other
using a range of sounds and vocalizations. They give out a pop-like call, as
well as a kind of “tut-tut-tut”,
especially when they find an approaching danger, or feel the urge to warn
others. They have also been noted giving out snorts and screams out of rage
before an attack or a fight.
Like most other bear species, the moon bears too are omnivores,
and feed upon a wide variety of plant and animal matters, though they seem to
prefer a vegetarian diet. Their diet list includes mainly nuts in the autumn,
and leaves, berries, fruit, shoots, roots, and even honey from the beehive at
other times of the year. They will hunt mammals, fish, insects, and terrestrial
worms, as well as eat carrion, if available.
Reproduction & Life Cycle
The mating season of the Asian black bear is between April
and June. At the end of the gestation period of almost about a year, the female
usually gives birth to a single puppy, but occasionally twins as well, during
spring, usually between April and May of the following year.
The offspring of the moon bear are weaned at 4-6 months. The young cubs, however, remain with their
mothers for the first two years of their life. The juveniles take almost 3-4
years to attain the age of sexual maturity.
During reproduction, a
process called ‘late implant’ delays the development of the fertilized
eggs inside the womb of the female so that the cubs are always born in
spring. Thus, there will be an ample source of food for the mother for
the production of milk.
These arboreal creatures have
very long, sharp claws that help them in climbing up the trees, where they
mainly prefer to stay and sleep.
Their primary enemy in the wild is the Siberian tiger that overlaps their range. Wolves and brown bears
have also been reported to prey on cubs.
Considering their rapid
decrease in population, the moon bears have been classified as ‘VU’ (Vulnerable) by the IUCN 3.1.
Asian black bears can be
very aggressive toward humans and is
said to attack them even without provocation. The intensity of their
aggression is said to be even more than brown bears of Eurasia and
American black bears.
It gets its nickname moon
bear since the white mark on its chest reminds of a crescent moon.