The Himalyan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) some believe is the source of the legend of Yeti or the Abominable Snowman. It is perhaps its ability to walk upright that has given this subspecies of the more famous American brown bear this title. Sadly though experts fear the large scale destruction of its habitat is pushing this already rare bear to extinction from the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Himalayan brown bear is known as “Dzu-The” or Yeti in the high Himalayan altitudes where it resides. Thanks to mystery surrounding this bear not many even realise that brown bears are found in this part of the world as India is known more for its black bear species.

In the state of Himachal Pradesh brown bears are found in only Kugti and Tundah wildlife sanctuaries in tribal Bharmour and Pangi region of Chamba district. But now thanks to rapid habitat destruction for commercial timber needs, the homes of the bears are being destroyed.

Homeless Bears

Himalayan brown bears prefer to live around Rhododendron Campanulatum tree. The tree is locally known as buransh and is the state flower of Himachal Pradesh. In recent years though the commercial exploitation of the tree has increased because of high value of its fuel wood. This has lead to major chunks of the forested area vanishing making the brown bears lose their favourite canopy.

Dr Bipan C Rathore, from the Department of zoology in Government College, Chamba, who has been conducting an extensive study on the ecology of Himalayan brown bear for the past one decade says that increased human interference is disturbing the bears.

“This animal is very rare and pride of Himachal, but no initiative has been taken to save this animal and now the destruction of its ideal habitat is posing another threat,” said Dr Rathore.

He has suggested the state government to develop Tundah sanctuary as a brown bear reserve in the lines of the tiger reserve, but nothing has been done so far. Because of lack of funding he adds, nothing much is known about these bears and the habitat destruction is only pushing them further away.

“Human interference forces the animal to move to other places which disturbs its ecology affecting the population,” said Dr Rathore.

Little known Bear

The Himalayan Brown Bear, is often seen roaming on its own or a mother bear with its cubs. It is relatively smaller than the American Brown bear and has a paler coat. Found only in the higher levels north-western and central Himalayas, including Pakistan, India, Nepal, China and Bhutan, it is best seen in the Great Himalayan National Park (Himachal Pradesh) and the Deosai National Park, Pakistan. During summer, it follows the snow-line up to 5500m, descending to lower areas in autumn.

Dr. Rathore feels that the conversion of the Tundah sanctuary to a proper Bear reserve can help the animal as well as the researchers who are striving to study and protect it.

“As compared to Kugti, the Chadola “Dhar” in the Tundah wildlife sanctuary is safer for brown bear as people in the region worship the animal as deity,” said Dr Rathore.

“The concept already exists in western countries. Seeing such a rare animal in its natural habitat is always a unique experience and the government should take initiative as Himachal has diverse fauna particularly in Chamba region, where rare animals are found,” said Dr Rathore.

The population of the brown bear is around 20 in Kugti and less than 15 in Tundah. The animal is included in Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Worldwide although the population of brown bears is large, in India brown bears exist in 23 protected areas in the northern states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. Country-wide there are likely less than 1,000 individuals, and possibly even lesser as per International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Due to habitat loss, killing by livestock herders, and continuous poaching for its fur, claws and internal organs for the medicine trade, the Himalayan Brown Bear suffers constant decline throughout its range.

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Image via cc/Flickr by Spencer Wright


About Atula Gupta

Atula Gupta is the Founder and Editor of Her work has appeared in a number of international websites, dailies and magazines including The Wire, Deccan Herald, New Indian Express, Down to Earth and Heritage India on issues related to environment and its conservation. She is also the author of Environment Science Essentials, a set of books for school children. She hopes this website provides a platform for people to be aware about species in the verge of extinction and heighten their conservation efforts.

8 thoughts on “Himalayan Brown Bear Loosing Home in Himachal Pradesh

  1. i think dr. rathore is right.the brown bear is a rare and pride of himachal. every person should have initiative to save the beautiful bears.due to cutting the jungle animals have lost there homes and government should take some restricted step to save the animals life..

    1. I don’t agree with the remarks that the forests have been cut, that is the reason why there is Bear & human conflict, as this is nothing but a vague comment without knowing the facts and figures. In fact after every assessment of Forest cover, the Forest cover in HP is increasing. Since, 2009 State of Forest Report, the Forest cover has increased by 4 sq km, after every 2 years. The fact is that the population of wildlife is also increasing where as the forest cover has not increased at the same rate to suit their habitat and territory requirement. If any one knows, the no of trees cut in Himachal to meet the requirement of apple boxes, before 1980, and the trees removed for Timber distribution prior to 2008, reveals that the cutting of trees in HP has come down drastically. The main culprit is the diversion of forest land for non forestry purposes, in HP has increased many fold, as a no of roads have been constructed in the recent past, leading to fragmentation of forests, construction of Hydro Projects, which is the mandate of state Govt. So forest Dept of HP is not at fault at any point. Govt. passes at ease with out assessing whether it is, direction to cull the Bears with ease to prevent attacks, which should be stopped henceforth, unless warranted.

  2. It would have been much wise, had these Electric /Battery operated cars (nova) have been made compulsory in the periphery of 5 km radius from the Lift as the center point, which will do away with all the traffic hazards and other problems. Rather shimla city should have battery operated 3 wheelers to commute within the city limits. The train track between Taradevi to Shimla should be used to commute, MMTS (metro rail) to remove congestion for the peoples movement. Cycles (Biking) should be advocated in the city

  3. Dear Sir
    Nice results about Brown Bear. Congratulations!!!!
    I would like to know when it was published and which year data was used?
    Thanks and regards,
    Dr Manoj Agarwal

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