The cartoon world has embraced bears for years, introducing them as witty side-kicks like Baloo in the Jungle Book or the honey-loving jovial bear 'Winnie-the-Pooh'. My new friend Marty, the Ring-tailed Lemur, tells me that Lemurs have featured in movies too! I’m still waiting for my big break.
Anyway, so, most people have loved these bear characters since they were children and they will remain special for generations to come, thanks to Disney.
But, today we want to take you into the real world of Bears. Marty and I have loads to share, so hop on!
Bears have been around for 55 million to 38 million years. They are found throughout North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. They are 8 species of bears known so far - Brown Bear, Polar Bear, Asiatic Black Bear, North American Black Bear, Sun Bear, Sloth Bear, Spectacled Bear or Andean Bear, and Giant Pandas.
Polar bears are the largest bear species in the world.
But let’s look close to home! In India, Asiatic black bears, Sloth bears, Sun bears, and Brown bears are commonly found.
Asiatic Black Bears
Asiatic Black bears are also known as Himalayan Black bears and Moon bears. They have black fur and a white patch which might be crescent-shaped situated on the chest. They have longer ears compared to other bears. They are found in Asia, well that’s where there name comes from! They are omnivorous and love feeding on acorns, cherries, seeds, honey etc. and only a small part of their diet comprises meat such as small mammals, fish, birds, etc.
I’m sure you are wondering if they hibernate too? Well, they do, if they are located in the Northern Hemisphere. Southern Climates don’t need them to sleep through the winter months.
Sloth bears are native to India and Sri Lanka. They have dusty black coats and they look rather shaggy. They also have a distinct white U- or Y- shaped marking on their chest.
Have you ever seen one? I did one time in Bannerghatta National Park. Did you know that they have a Bear Rescue and Research Centre at the BBP? They have rescued, treated, and taken care of more than 75 Sloth Bears so far! Isn’t that amazing? Marty and I feel it’s wonderful!
They are nocturnal and feed on ants & termites all year long. They are also called labiated bears because their lips are shaped for sucking up insects. They live in dry and moist forests and tall grasslands, and are pretty happy to share space with other Sloth bears.
Sun bears are one of the rarest bear species and also the smallest one. They are found in Southeast Asia and derive their name from the golden patches of fur present on their chest, almost like a yellow crescent.
They are known to have flexible snouts and very long tongues that help them extract termites from nests. They also have the largest canines among bears but interestingly, they don’t enjoy meat a lot. Instead, they love insects, fruits, birds, and honey (for which they also known as honey bears).
In North America, they are called Grizzly bears. They are not fully brown and can have reddish hair too. They hibernate during winters. Brown bears are 30% faster than humans. They are really good swimmers. They prefer to stay in dense areas.
Fun Facts About Bears
- Did you know that a few bear species can build nests on trees? Asiatic and Sun bears build nests to sleep in and hide their food. They build their nests on large trees.
- Except the Spectacled bear, all other bears live in the northern hemisphere. Spectacled bears are the only species found in the southern hemisphere.
- Bears are intelligent beings and they have an extremely good memory.
- Smell is the strongest sense in bears. They can sense a smell from over miles which helps them safeguard themselves and even hunt!
- Polar Bears are the only bear species to be considered marine mammals. They depend on the water bodies for their food.
- Bears can walk on hind legs, just like humans!
- Pandas have an extra bone in each paw just for eating, which Marty and I understand. You see, pandas spend 10-16 hours a day feeding, mainly on bamboo. Yikes!
Bears Need Your Help
We are sure you find Bears fascinating beyond finding them adorable, just like us! But, are you aware that we are slowly losing them?
Of the eight bear species in the world, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists six as vulnerable or endangered. Only Black bears and brown bears don’t face this threat yet.
The loss of habitat, hunting, and climate change are the main causes of this threat. Bears are poached for their shin and fur to make rugs. They are considered to have medicinal values for which they are hunted. That breaks our hearts and we urge you to help!
Our bear friends need us and this is how you can help them -
- Educate yourself and spread awareness
- Volunteer for an organization that works to save them
- Fight against global warming
- Prevent soil erosion by planting trees
- Dispose waste properly
Bears play a vital role in maintaining the ecosystem. They even fertilize the surrounding soil! Bears are our family, just like people are. Marty and I hope that you will support the conservation efforts of Bears and spread awareness about protecting them.
Which species do you want to learn about next? Let us know in the comments.
- Written by Gowri, a 14-year-old friend of Kaadoo Paapa