Jayanthi Natarajan releases action plan to conserve bear species at international conference on bear research and management in Delhi
The bear has finally found a place in the country's wildlife conservation programme, which so far has shown more concern for more popular species like the tiger, elephant and snow leopard. The Indian government has drafted a five-year action plan to boost efforts to conserve bear species found in India.
The National Bear Conservation and Welfare Action Plan-2012 was released on November 26 at the inauguration of the 21st International Conference on Bear Research and Management being held in New Delhi. The conference is being held in India for the first time. “The conservation efforts so far have been focused only on some species. With this action plan, we attempt to shift our focus towards the bear as well. Either through a committed project bear or under the ongoing wildlife programmes we will make specific provisions for bear conservation,” said environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan.
India is home to four out of the total eight bear species in the world, and 26 of the 28 Indian states have bear ranges. Around 20,000 sloth bears occupy 400,000 square km area in the country, while 600 Asiatic black bears are found in 270,000 sq km in northern states. Around 300 brown bears are found in the Himalayan states while the sun bear is found in scarce numbers in the north-eastern states. None of the government programmes so far have focused specifically on bear conservation. This can be gauged from the fact that none of the states has declared bear as its state animal.
This has led to increased threat to these magnificent species. Bear habitats are continuously shrinking and man-bear conflicts are on the rise in several states. “In past few months, more than 500 hundred people have been injured in Jammu and Kashmir alone due to bear attacks. This is projecting bear in a very wrong light. People retaliated by trying to torch a bear alive recently,” said Vivek Menon, chief executive officer of Wildlife Trust of India. Besides, bears are being poached for their body parts. Several sloth bear cubs had been caught by kalandars over the decades who train them to perform for public. The practice has been stopped by and large by the efforts of a few NGOS that worked with the forest departments to rescue the bears caught by kalandars and rehabilitated the community members by helping them find other means of living.
It is to address these threats and outline the conservation guidelines that the Union ministry of environment drafted the National Bear Conservation and Welfare Action Plan-2012. The plan outlines the guidelines for removing these threats and to ensure that a stable bear population is maintained in the country. The action plan focuses on protection of bear from poaching and illegal trade, management of bear-human conflict, protection and restoration of their habitats, further research on bears in India, capacity building of the researchers and forest staff and review of policy and regulations on bears. The action plan has been prepared by Wildlife Institute of India along with non-profits Wildlife Trust of India, International fund for animal Welfare and World society for the Protection of Animals.
Natarajan also announced that the ministry will form primary response teams in the regions where bear-human conflicts are frequent to address the issue and promised that the victims of the bear attacks will be compensated immediately.