India launches national plan to protect bears

Last Updated: Mon, Nov 26, 2012 15:10 hrs

New Delhi, Nov 26 (IANS) India Monday launched a national plan for bear conservation that will help in calculating their exact population and counter possible threats like poaching.

Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarjan launched the National Bear Conservation and Welfare Action Plan at the International Conference on Bear Research and Management held here.

The conference brings together experts from 35 bear range countries to present the latest findings and experiences in bear conservation and welfare.

"The highlight bears have received is not adequate. Environment ministry would provide necessary guidance and support to the states to implement these action plans," said Natarajan.

India is home to four of the eight species of bears found worldwide − making it one of the only two countries with this diversity, the other being China.

The Indian bears include the sloth bear, the Asiatic black bear, the Himalayan brown bear and the Malayan sun bear.

The bears have an almost pan−India distribution, being found in 26 of the 28 Indian states.

"Despite their wide distribution, there exists little specific information on bear population and (population) trend in India. Unlike other large mammals like the tiger, rhino and the elephant, bears have been largely left out," said S. Sathyakumar of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

The national plan summarises the threats faced by bears in India, and outlines management actions to be undertaken by the bear range states for their conservation and welfare.

"For India this is a particularly significant conference. Not just because it is the country's first but also because the focus will be on Indian bears − which have largely remained in the shadows," said Vivek Menon, executive director, Wildlife Trust of India.

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