IUCN Bear Specialist Group:
Committed to conserving bears in the diversity of their natural environments.

MISSION – We strive to promote the conservation of bears in their natural habitats across their worldwide distribution. We do this by…

  • gaining, synthesizing and disseminating information;
  • promoting and supporting conservation initiatives;
  • providing technical assistance and building capacity of those involved or interested in bear conservation;
  • directly implementing conservation projects and activities that reduce threats to bears;
  • periodically assessing the conservation status of bears via the IUCN Red List Assessment;
  • organizing and managing 9 Expert Teams, each with people committed to conserving bears.

BEAR SPECIALIST GROUP LEADERSHIP – The Bear Specialist Group is structured into 7 “Species Expert Teams” and 2 “Topic Expert Teams”, with most BSG members being a member of one or more teams. Each team is led by co-chairs.  The purpose of these teams is to foster close collaboration and interaction to improve conservation. Expert Team members are country representative or topical experts who share ideas, brainstorm, and collaborate in a way that they typically wouldn’t outside the structure of the team.

2016-2020 Bear Specialist Group Leadership:

SPECIES EXPERT TEAMS LEADERSHIP – The 7 “Species Expert Teams” are led by co-chairs.  The purpose of these teams is to foster close collaboration and interaction to improve conservation. Expert Team members are country representative or topical experts who share ideas, brainstorm, and collaborate in a way that they typically wouldn’t outside the structure of the team. Species Expert Teams are focused around individual species and regions:

2016-2020 Bear Specialist Group Species Leadership Teams are:

TOPIC EXPERT TEAMS LEADERSHIP – The 2 “Topic Expert Teams” are led by co-chairs.  The purpose of these teams is to foster close collaboration and interaction to improve conservation. Expert Team members are topic experts who share ideas, brainstorm, and collaborate in a way that they typically wouldn’t outside the structure of the team.

Topic Expert Teams are focused around individual topics:

SELECTION OF MEMBERSHIP – BSG Co-chairs are appointed by the Chair of the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN. Members of the BSG are appointed by the BSG co-chairs in consultation with Expert Team co-chairs. Members are selected based on their expertise, conservation-related activities, and representation within the range countries.

Because the level of expertise on bears varies enormously among countries, we cannot have a strict set of criteria for membership, but rather seek the best people in all bear range countries. Members serve a 4-year term, coincident with the term of the elected SSC Chair, and can be reappointed.

WHO WE ARE & WHAT WE DO – The BSG is comprised of ~180 members representing 61 of 66 bear range countries (plus a few countries with no bears or just transients). We include professional biologists and conservationists from governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), universities, museums, zoos and other captive facilities. We are not an advocacy or animal welfare organization, although we may advocate on occasion and we are concerned for animal welfare. Our purpose is to pursue science-based conservation of bears, which means that we are involved in:

  • Research (to ascertain threats, population trends, habitat needs)
  • Monitoring (of population size and geographic range; changes in habitat; designing better monitoring systems)
  • Reducing threats (by developing or aiding in conservation actions; assessing how well actions are working).
  • Assessing risks (mainly through the IUCN Red Listing process, both globally and by country, region, and individual population)
  • Setting priorities (for where conservation actions are most needed, what habitats should be protected)
  • Organizing workshops and symposia (for capacity building and sharing knowledge and expertise).
  • Creating Conservation Action Plans (globally or nationally, and helping to implement those plans)

PARTNERS – The Bear Specialist Group (BSG) is one of ~140 Specialist Groups/Task Forces within the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The IUCN, created in 1948, is the world’s largest and most diverse science-based environmental network, composed of most of the world’s governments, and many conservation-oriented scientists and environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Species Survival Commission consists of more than 7,500 volunteer experts on species conservation, grouped mainly by taxon into Specialist Groups. Polar bears are included in their own Specialist Group.

The BSG has a close relationship with the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA), which is a society mainly for professional bear biologists.

We publish a joint newsletter with IBA (International Bear News), we participate in all international IBA conferences, we review proposals for IBA Research and Conservation Grants (and many of our members are funded by these grants), and many BSG leaders have been or are also on the IBA Council. On occasion, the BSG and IBA get together to write a joint statement about a pressing issue of concern for bears.

OUR PHILOSOPHY – We are committed to the conservation of bears, but we view that mission in the context of all the world’s biodiversity. We will work with any organization or individual sharing our vision of conserving nature that is in some way linked to bears and is science-based. We aim to provide accurate and reliable information about bears, the habitats they use, threats to their existence, and their future outlook. Our goal is not to provide either a dire or rosy picture, but simply the best information, based both on data and expert opinion.

While we strive to rely on the “best available science”, we are fully aware that in many cases, scientific data are insufficient to reach meaningful conclusions. Indeed, data-driven population estimates and assessments of population trend do not exist in most bear range countries. So we must also rely on the opinions of the best experts we can find, acknowledging that everyone’s opinion is not without some bias. We seek to critically examine all information we receive.

Where data are weak, we often err on the side of caution by assuming a higher conservation risk –– but we aim not to exaggerate risks simply to draw more attention. If a species is improving (in all or parts of its range), we will strive to understand why, and use this knowledge to create positive change in other situations. We highlight both shortfalls and advances, seeking knowledge that promotes better understanding and informed conservation action, always with a watchful eye on the credibility of the information that we provide.

Trusted Partners

International Union for Conservation of Nature

International Association for Bear Research & Management