Forests cover about 30 percent of the planet, but deforestation is clearing these essential habitats on a massive scale. The most dramatic impact is a loss of habitat for millions of species. According to National Geographic, 80 percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes. Brown bears live in higher altitudes and avoid contact with human beings but due to the cutting of trees and decline in natural prey, they have become conditioned to rely on trash and food waste generated by humans at campsites. These terrains also form a natural habitat for several unique species including snow leopards, musk deer etc. Brown bears are almost on the brink of extinction due to rapid habitat loss, man-animal conflict situations, militancy, and poaching for its fur, claws, and organs. They are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and are protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Recently in India, wildlife rescue organization, Wildlife SOS rescued a nine-month-old Himalayan Brown Bear cub from a human-bear conflict situation at a pilgrim campsite. Every year tens of thousands of pilgrims embark on the holy pilgrimage to the Amaranth temple in Jammu and Kashmir. This year, the pilgrims were in for a big surprise as a bear cub was spotted at an altitude of 11,500 feet. This young bear had been seen frequenting the campsite previously and was innocently raiding garbage cans. Unfortunately, the bear got its head stuck inside a dustbin and had to be rescued immediately. When the rescue team reached the spot, the helpless cub had the saddest pair of eyes as if pleading for help.
As Brown Bear cubs are dependent on their mothers for the first three to four years of their lives, several attempts were made by the team to look for the mother in the area. However, when she failed to turn up, the bear was transferred to a rescue center managed by Wildlife SOS. The bear was identified as a male and was treated for minor wounds that were sustained during his attempts to break free from the can.
As the cub is quite young and will not be able to survive in the wild on its own, it has been placed under the permanent care of Wildlife SOS.
Lovingly called Sebastian by his keeper, the bear is very active and is growing stronger and bigger by the day. He enjoys playing on the structural enrichment but ends up demolishing it most of the time as he doesn’t realize just how powerful he is.
As the co-founder of Wildlife S.O.S explained in a press release, “We would have preferred to see the cub released back in the wild. Unfortunately, since the cub has become dependent on humans for food, there is a great chance that he will get into frequent conflict situations in the future and could eventually become a victim of human-bear conflict.”
The Himalayan Brown Bear is a subspecies of the brown bear and is found only in high altitudes in north-western and central Himalayas including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, west China, Tibet, and Nepal. They are already speculated to have become extinct in Bhutan while only 150-200 remain in Pakistan. India could be the last remaining habitat with a significant number. According to a survey conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India in 2006, the number of Himalayan brown bears was estimated to be around 500 to 750.
With so many animal species in constant danger from human-animal conflict or deforestation, it’s heartwarming to know that there are kind Samaritans out there who help wildlife in need and preserve these species from extinction.
To learn more about Wildlife SOS and the other animals they’ve rescued, check out their website here. And please share this beautiful story with your friends and family!
All image source: Wildlife SOS