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Many bear species around the world are inching closer toward endangerment and even extinction in some cases. Logging, agricultural expansion, and poaching play key roles in declining bear population numbers. If these activities remain unchecked, we may be bidding farewell to thousands of bears in the next few decades.
Find out which of the world’s bear species are most threatened today with the list below along simple ways on how you can help them.
1. Polar Bears
Population: 20,000 to 25,000
Polar bears are the largest living land carnivores and they have been walking the Earth for around 600,000 years. While they are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), they are increasingly threatened due to climate change and other hazards including pollution and oil development. It’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of polar bears will be gone by 2050 because of sea ice loss exacerbated by climate change.
Help them by:
- Taking part in local green initiatives that help reduce our global carbon footprint including recycling drives, planting trees, carpooling, etc.
- Adopting a polar bear.
- Purchasing products closer to where you live to reduce the need for fossil fuels.
- Telling the federal government to protect the polar bears’ fragile Arctic habitat from oil exploration.
- Donating to conservation organizations working to protect polar bears like Polar Bear International and World Wildlife Fund.
2. Sloth Bears
Population: Around 20,000
Sloth bears have remained under their “vulnerable” IUCN status since 1990. Many of them were kidnapped from the wild over the years to become “dancing bears” in India. Thankfully, this cruel tradition ended in 2009 with India’s last dancing bears retired to sanctuaries. However, other threats still loom for sloth bears. Their habitat has become increasingly threatened because of the overharvesting of forest products, expansion of human settlements, and the establishment of monoculture agricultural activities. The bears are also poached for their parts and fat, which are used to in folk medicines and to ward off evil spirits.
Help them by:
- Sponsoring a bear in India, Cambodia, or Laos.
- Donating to animal protection organizations that help sloth bears like Free the Bears Fund, World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), Wildlife SOS India, and Humane Society International.
3. Asiatic Black Bears
Asiatic black bears or moon bears are rebounding in Japan, yet are floundering elsewhere, especially in Southeast Asia and China. According to the ICUN, it’s estimated that Asiatic black bear numbers have declined by 30 to 49 percent over the past 30 years and that this trend will continue over the next 30. Habitat loss from logging and human settlement expansion is a key threat to these bears as is illegal hunting. Many Asiatic black bears are killed for this skins and paws and are captured for painful and cruel bear bile farming, which is widespread in Korea, China and Vietnam. Some are also captured for bear baiting exhibitions in Pakistan, even though this practice was made illegal in the country in 2001.
Help them by:
- Signing this petition calling for an end to bear farms in Korea.
- Becoming a vet nurse, office, or behavioral volunteer at Animals Asia Foundation.
- Distributing information about the plight of moon bears to educate and spread awareness.
- Donating to moon bear conservation organizations like Bear Trust International and Animals Asia Foundation.
4. Sun Bears
Much like moon bears, sun bear population numbers have been declining by nearly 30 percent over the past 30 years in Southeast Asia. Large-scale deforestation from unsustainable logging practices and clear-cutting is encroaching upon sun bear habitat, resulting in high fragmentation and habitat loss. Sun bears are also exploited for their body parts through hunting, which is estimated to continue over the next 30 years unless strong measures are employed to deter poaching activities.
Help them by:
- Spreading awareness about reforestation initiatives.
- Aiding sun bear conservation centers by donating your skills like writing, research, and video production to enhance their protection and care efforts.
- Donating to sun bear conservation groups like Red Endangered Animal Connection Trust (REACT) and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center.
5. Giant Pandas
Population: 1,000 to 2,000
Giant pandas are by far the most endangered bear species on the planet and have been given maximum protection status under the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Law. While many conservation efforts are underway to help restore panda population numbers, habitat fragmentation and deforestation remain the biggest threats to these bears in the wild.
Help them by:
- Telling Congress to keep vital conservation programs funded.
- Supporting sustainable livelihoods in China to reduce pressures on giant panda habitats.
- Adopting a panda.
- Donating to organizations dedicated to preserving giant pandas like Pandas International and World Wildlife Fund.
Image source: Alan D. Wilson / Wikipedia Commons