Himalayan brown bear
|Himalayan brown bear|
|Subspecies:||U. a. isabellinus|
|Ursus arctos isabellinus
|Himalayan brown bear range|
The Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus), also known as the Himalayan red bear, isabelline bear or Dzu-Teh, is a subspecies of the brown bear and is known from northern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, northern India, west China, and Nepal. It is the largest mammal in the region, males reaching up to 2.2 m (7 ft) long while females are a little smaller. These bears are omnivorous and hibernate in a den during the winter. Although present in a number of protected areas, they are becoming increasingly rare because of loss of suitable habitat and hunting by humans, and have become "critically endangered." This bear (as the Dzu-Teh) is thought by some to be the source of the legend of the Yeti.
Himalayan brown bears exhibit sexual dimorphism. Males range from 1.5m up to 2.2m (5 ft - 7 ft 3in) long, while females are 1.37m to 1.83m (4 ft 6 in - 6 ft) long. They are the largest animals in the Himalayas and are usually sandy or reddish-brown in colour.
The bears are found in Nepal, west China, north India, north Pakistan, and south-east Kazakhstan. They are already speculated to have become extinct in Bhutan. Phylogenetic analysis has shown that the Gobi bear clusters with the Himalayan brown bear and may represent a relict population of this subspecies.
Phylogenetics and evolution
The Himalayan brown bear consists of a single clade that is the sister group to all other brown bears (and polar bears). The dating of the branching event, estimated at 658,000 years ago, corresponds to the period of a Middle Pleistocene episode of glaciation on the Tibetan plateau, suggesting that during this Nyanyaxungla glaciation the lineage that would give rise to the Himalayan brown bear became isolated in a distinct refuge, leading to its divergence.
Behaviour and ecology
The bears go into hibernation around October and emerge during April and May. Hibernation usually occurs in a den or cave made by the bear.
Himalayan brown bears are omnivores and will eat grasses, roots and other plants as well as insects and small mammals; they also like fruits and berries. They will also prey on large mammals, including sheep and goats. Adults will eat before sunrise and later during the afternoon.
Status and conservation
International trade is prohibited by the Wildlife Protection Act in Pakistan. Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF) in Pakistan conducts research on the current status of Himalayan brown bears in the Pamir Range in Gilgit-Baltistan, a promising habitat for the bears and a wildlife corridor connecting bear populations in Pakistan to central Asia. The project also intends to investigate the conflicts humans have with the bears, while promoting tolerance for bears in the region through environmental education. SLF received funding from the Prince Bernhard Nature Fund and Alertis. Unlike its American cousin, which is found in good numbers, the Himalayan brown bear is critically endangered. They are poached for their fur and claws for ornamental purposes and internal organs for use in medicines. They are killed by shepherds to protect their livestock and their home is destroyed by human encroachment. In Himachal, their home is the Kugti and Tundah wildlife sanctuaries and the tribal Chamba region. Their estimated population is just 20 in Kugti and 15 in Tundah. The tree bearing the state flower of Himachal — buransh — is the favourite hangout of this bear. Due to the high value of the buransh tree, it is being commercially cut causing further destruction to the brown bear’s home. The Himalayan brown bear is a critically endangered species in some of its range with a population of only 150-200 in Pakistan. The populations in Pakistan are slow reproducing, small, and declining because of habitat loss, fragmentation, poaching, and bear-baiting.
Association with the Yeti
"Dzu-Teh," a Nepalese term, has also been associated with the legend of the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, with which it has been sometimes confused or mistaken. During the Daily Mail Abominable Snowman Expedition of 1954, Tom Stobart encountered a "Dzu-Teh". This is recounted by Ralph Izzard, the Daily Mail correspondent on the expedition, in his book The Abominable Snowman Adventure. The report was also printed in the Daily Mail expedition dispatches on May 7, 1954. However Tom Stobart was not a native of the region and his identification was merely based on a presumption that he knew an animal that he had never seen before from very ambiguous evidence. Native Tibetans deny that Dzu-Teh refers to any kind of a bear (it means "cattle raider") and the name is used in areas where bears are not found. Cryptozoologist George Eberhart says that the problem is the result of conflating the Dzu-Teh with a different creature known as the Dre-Mo, and that one definitely is a bear. Eberhart says that "there is considerable doubt that the locals made any such claim." A 2017 analysis of DNA extracted from a mummified animal purporting to represent a Yeti showed it actually to have been a Himalayan brown bear.
- The Japan Times, 18 September 2003.
- "Yeti's 'non-existence' hard to bear". 2003-09-26. Retrieved 2017-11-28.
- Lan T., Gill S., Bellemain E., Bischof R., Zawaz M.A., Lindqvist C. (2017). "Evolutionary history of enigmatic bears in the Tibetan Plateau–Himalaya region and the identity of the yeti". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 284: 20171804.
- "Alertis Secures Grant". Bears In Mind. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Tehsin, Arefa (2014-11-20). "Missing snowman". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2017-11-28.
- Ralph Izzard. (1955). "The Abominable Snowman Adventure". Hodder and Staoughton.
- Eberhart, George M. (2002). Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology. ABC-CLIO. pp. 148–152. ISBN 9781576072837.
- "Status and Affinities of the Bears of Northeastern Asia", by Ernst Schwarz Journal of Mammalogy 1940 American Society of Mammalogists.
- Ogonev, S.I. 1932, "The mammals of eastern Europe and northern Asia", vol. 2, pp. 11–118. Moscow.
- Pocock R.I, "The Black and Brown Bears of Europe and Asia" Part 1. Journal or Bombay Natural History Society., vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 772–823, figs 1-11. July 15, 1932.
- Ursus arctos, by Maria Pasitschniak, Published 23 April 1993 by "The American Society of Mammalogists"
- John A. Jackson, "More than Mountains", Chapter 10 (pp 92) & 11, "Prelude to the Snowman Expedition & The Snowman Expedition", George Harrap & Co, 1954
- Charles Stonor, "The Sherpa and the Snowman", recounts the 1955 Daily Mail "Abominable Snowman Expedition" by the scientific officer of the expedition, this is a very detailed analysis of not just the "Snowman" but the flora and fauna of the Himalaya and its people. Hollis and Carter, 1955.
- John A. Jackson, "Adventure Travels in the Himalaya" Chapter 17, "Everest and the Elusive Snowman", 1954 updated material, Indus Publishing Company, 2005.
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