In the southern third of Mongolia in the Gobi Desert lives the rarest bear in the world — the Gobi bear, also referred to as the Gobi grizzly, or called by its name in Mongolian, Mazaalai. The Gobi Desert with its mostly barren, yet hauntingly beautiful, geographical landscape is also home to other rare animals, insects, and plants. An interesting fact about the Gobi bear is that it’s the oldest line of the brown bear, the closet thing to the original brown bear, and among the least known large mammals on Earth.
What’s Going On?
National Geographic’s video, Saving the World’s Rarest Bear, mentions the depressing fact that there are only two dozen, maybe three dozen, of these bears left in the world. With a dismal head count like this, the Mongolian government had declared 2013 the “Year of Protecting the Gobi Bear” to figure out ways to protect the endangered “national treasure.” But just how did it get to this point?
At the January 2013 Year of Protecting the Gobi Bear conference, experts voiced the decrease in Gobi bear numbers as related to the worsening natural environment and wild born birthrates being low. A female Gobi bear usually gives birth to just a single cub every two years with a low cub survival rate. To prevent the alternative to take bears in from the wild for captive breeding and other concerns, specialists and scholars hoped the appropriate government agencies would take the necessary actions to protect the bears and experts suggested expanding the ecological protection zone for Gobi bears.
“They’ve found a way to live in one of the most extreme environments on the planet,” said Harry Reynolds, a wildlife biologist and an authority on Gobi bears. “They’re the only bear of any kind that dwells exclusively in desert habitat. By adaptation and learning, they’ve found a way to live in one of the most extreme environments on the planet.”
Can the World’s Rarest Bear Be Saved?
The National Geographic video brought up something very real stating if you’re trying to save an animal like this bear, as you save it, you end up saving a varied wildlife community. And when you get down to 20 or 30 animals, statistically their chances of making it are not great, but you cannot walk away from them. Being as rare as they are, they can tell us a lot about how to survive in one of the harshest environments on the plant. Turning our backs on a species because their numbers are “too” low is not right and is all the more reason to save them.
“Look, Gobi bears might not make it,” said Reynolds. “But you can’t think like that. To see a problem and not want to work to fix it, not try while these bears still have a chance, well…” He does have a point.
How Can I Help?
The Gobi bear population may be small, but a lot of help is needed to keep conservation efforts moving forward. Concerned organizations are conducting research on these bears. Find out more about what they are doing and how you can help them succeed!
- Vital Ground addresses the issue of habitat fragmentation head-on by permanently protecting crucial lands for the benefit of grizzly bears and other wide-ranging wildlife.
- International Association for Bear Research and Management’s goal is to promote the conservation and restoration of the world’s bears through science-based research, management and education.
Image source: Joe Riis/National Geographic