Enviornment Prelims 2021 Prelims cum Mains

Outlook bleak for Himalayan brown bears

Himalayan brown bear are omnivorous (eat both plants and animals), diurnal (active during the day) and mostly live solitarily. A study predicts that climate change will result in a significant reduction in suitable habitat, and biological corridors of the Himalayan brown bear.

In News:

  • A recent study on the Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) has predicted that climate change will result in a significant reduction in suitable habitat.

About: Himalayan brown bear

  • Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) is a large bear with thick fur which is most often sandy or reddish-brown in colour.
  • They are one of the largest animals in the highlands of Himalayas.
  • They are known as “Dren-Mo” in Bhoti or Bodhi language (local language of Ladakh and Tibet).
  • They are omnivorous (eat both plants and animals), diurnal (active during the day) and mostly live solitarily.
  • The bears go into hibernation in a cave or dug-out den around October, emerging in April or May.
  • Habitat: The Himalayan brown bear distribution is restricted to Himalayan high lands with relatively small and isolated populations.
    • During the summer months the bears move up as high as the snow-line at around 5,500 metres and then descend into the valleys in the autumn. 
  • Range: Known in the north-western and central Himalaya, including India and Pakistan (as per various reports, it is said to also be naturally found in some other countries also in the region).
    • In India, it is mostly distributed in the high-altitude ranges of Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory (UT), Ladakh UT, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. 
  • It is not very well studied due to elusive nature and rugged landscape it inhabits. It is extremely rare in many of its ranges.

Threats: 

  • Habitat loss
  • Killing by livestock herders
  • Poaching for fur and for the illegal body parts trade

Conservation status:

  • All Brown Bears are listed under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, offering the highest protection.

News Summary:

  • A recent study on the Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) was carried out in the western Himalayas by scientists of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).
  • A publication titled ‘Adaptive spatial planning of protected area network for conserving the Himalayan brown bear’ with the details of the study has recently been published in an international science journal.
  • The study predicts that climate change will result in a significant reduction in suitable habitat, and biological corridors of the Himalayan brown bear.

Findings:

  • The high altitudes at which the brown bear is distributed is most vulnerable to global warming as this elevation belt is getting warmer faster than other elevation zones of Himalayas.
  • The study predicted a massive decline of about 73% of the bear’s habitat by the year 2050.
  • These losses in habitat will also result in loss of habitat from 13 protected areas (PAs), and eight of them will become completely uninhabitable by the year 2050, followed by loss of connectivity in the majority of PAs.
  • Furthermore, simulation suggests a significant qualitative decline in remaining habitats of the species within the protected areas of the landscape.

Way ahead:

  • The habitat of species like Himalayan brown bear is highly vulnerable to climate and advanced planning is necessary to sustain its population in future.
  • The ZSI scientists suggest an ‘adaptive spatial planning’ of protected area network in the western Himalayas for conserving the species.
    • Adaptive spatial planning broadly refers to conserving the existing landscape and augmenting the fragmented areas of the habitat of the species.
  • They mapped suitable habitats outside the PAs that are closely placed to PAs, and recommended that such areas may be prioritized to bring them into the PA network or enhanced protection.
  • This will help in minimising the risks and uncertainty of climate change for the species.

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