World team to study Indian bears

 An international contingent of bear experts and scientists visited the Daroji bear sanctuary in Bellary to study the habitat and behaviour of sloth bears.

The 14-strong team comprising experts from the United States, Canada, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, have come to India to attend the 21st International Conference on Bear Research and Management.

They include Dave Garshelis, a professor from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Biology; Robert G Steinmitz, a bear expert group member from the International Union of Conservation Network (IUCN); Bruce McLellan and Thomas Sharp of Wildlife SoS (USA); Gabriella Fredrikson, a core member of the IUCN and an expert on the Indonesian orangoutan and moon bears; Lorraine Scotson, a member of the International Bear Association, and Mei Hsieu Hwang, an expert on the sun bear in Thailand, among others.

Under the guidance of M Nagaraj, the range forest officer at Daroji, and forest officer S S Jalihaal, who briefed the experts on conservation programmes being carried out by the department and conservationist groups in the area, the team also visited unprotected forests in Gangavathi taluk, in Koppal, to study the conservation potential of the area.

During their visit to Thanapura and Agoli-Benakal reserve forests, the team observed that the area was an ideal bear habitat and suggested methods to conserve it.

They also interacted with private guards hired on the initiative of private citizens to help reduce incidents of man-animal conflicts. The experts spent time studying the construction of waterholes, termite mounds dug by bears and the scats of sloth bears.

Conservation required

Samad Kottur, a researcher on sloth bear ecology, who introduced the experts to the region, told Deccan Herald that there was an urgent need to conserve all bear habitats in Karnataka. He said the organisation had made preperations to conduct research on the behaviour, food, ecology and man-animal conflicts pertaining to sloth bears.

Geeta Seshamani, secretary to Wildlife SOS, said India was one of 12 mega biodiversity centres in the world and home to four of the eight species of bears, including the Himalayan brown bear, the Asiatic black bear, the sloth bear and the sun bear.

Organised by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Wildlife Institute of India and the Wildlife Trust of India, in collaboration with International Bear Association and the IUCN, the conference will be held in New Delhi from Monday.

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