Shailendra Kumar Yadav, National Trust for Nature Conservation – Annapurna Conservation Area Project
Babu Ram Lamichhane, Sloth Bear Expert Team, IUCN Bear Specialist Group
Naresh Subedi, National Trust for Nature Conservation
Maheshwar Dhakal, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation
Ramesh Kumar Thapa, Bardia National Park (BNP), Thakurdwara, Bardia
Laxman Poudyal, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation

In Nepal, the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus; normally called Himalayan black bear in Nepal) occurs across the Middle Hills and has also been detected within all of the Mountain Protected Areas (National Parks: Makalu-Barun, Sagarmatha, Langtang, Shivapuri Nagarjun, Shey-Phoksundo, Rara and Khaptad; Conservation Areas: Kanchenjunga, Annapurna and Manaslu; and Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve). It has also been recorded from the districts of Dhading, Surkhet, Dailekh, Dadeldhura, Doti, Bajura, Rukum and Myagdi (Jnawali et al. 2011). It is considered to occur at elevations of 1,400 m to 4,000 m (Jnawali et al. 2011), but not in the lowland Terai of Nepal, which is occupied by the sloth bear. A single record exists, from a camera trapping survey in 1999–2000, of a Himalayan black bear in the Babai Valley (along the Babai River) of Bardia National Park (Jnawali et al. 2011). This park is within the Terai in southwestern Nepal (28.7193 to 29.0515°N; 80.0609 to 80.4120°E). However, since then there has been no further evidence of the presence of this species on the Terai of Nepal despite continuous and extensive camera trap surveys and other ecological research in last decade. Here we present photographic evidence of another Himalayan black bear captured in a camera trap in Bardia (BNP), after a 16-year absence.

Details of the camera trap locations where an Asiatic black bear was photographed in Bardia National Park, Nepal, in 2000 and 2016.
Particulars 2000 2016
GPS location 28.44891°N 81.40853°E 28.36562°N 81.66896°E
Elevation (m asl) 237 327
No. of photos 1 3
No. of individuals 1 1
Duration of camera trapping at this site 25 Mar–9 Apr 2000 23 Feb–9 Mar 2016
Photo date and time 1 Apr 2000 21:44 5 March 2016 15:22
Terrain Hilly Hilly
Habitat type Mixed forest Mixed forest
Distance to nearest village (km) 8 4
Distance to nearest sloth bear photo location (km) 1.4 1.6

Methods
A camera trapping survey aimed at tigers was conducted across the entire BNP (968 km²) from January 18 to March 28, 2016. A total of 269 grid cells of 2 x 2 km were superimposed and surveyed successively in 4 large blocks. The camera trap location within each grid cell was selected following an extensive survey of tiger signs. In each sampling point a pair of motion-sensitive camera traps (Cuddeback Color Model C1, Cuddeback Attack, Reconyx 500 or Reconyx 550) was installed at 45–60 cm above ground on either side of a game trail, forest road or stream bed, maximizing the probability of tiger capture. Camera traps were checked every day. Cameras were active for at least 15 days in each grid cell. Camera trap photos were given unique identification names and sorted by species.

Camera trap photographs of Himalayan (Asiatic) black bear in Babai Valley of Bardia National Park, Nepal during 1999/2000 survey. The old photograph was found in the photo archive of the National Trust for Nature Conservation.

Camera trap photograph of Himalayan (Asiatic) black bear in Babai Valley of Bardia National Park, Nepal during 1999/2000 survey. The old photograph was found in the photo archive of the National Trust for Nature Conservation.

Results and Discussion
A total of 4,035 camera-trap nights from 257 sampling locations yielded 489,764 photographs of 28 species. We recorded 3 photos of a solitary Himalayan black bear from a single location along the riverbed at Dhanuse area in Babai Valley on March 5. We compared the photos with Asiatic black bear photos on the IUCN redlist webpage (Garshelis and Steinmetz 2016) and national redlist of mammals of Nepal (Jnawali et al. 2011) to confirm the identification. The bear capture location was in the eastern part of BNP, 27 km east of the camera trap photo of a black bear in 2000, and ~3 km from the border of Banke NP. Other large mammalian species detected at this site included tiger (Panthera tigris), sambar (Rusa unicolor), wild boar (Sus scrofa), chital (Axis axis) and red muntjac (Muntiacus muntjac). Scat and tracks of a bear were also recorded at multiple locations beyond the camera trap location.

Camera trap photograph of Himalayan (Asiatic) black bear in Babai Valley of Bardia National Park, Nepal during 2016 tiger survey. Photo credit for Yadav: DNPWC/NTNC

Camera trap photograph of Himalayan (Asiatic) black bear in Babai Valley of Bardia National Park, Nepal during 2016 tiger survey. Photo credit for Yadav: DNPWC/NTNC

Himalayan black bears have been reported from low elevations (<1,000 m) along the Terai Arc in India, overlapping the range of sloth bears in Corbett Tiger Reserve and Rajaji National Parks, Uttarakhand (Bargali 2012). However, Garshelis et al. (1999) reported little or no overlap of sloth bear and black bear ranges in Nepal. The reason for this separation in Nepal, but overlap in India, remains a mystery. Sloth bears have been recorded in Bardia regularly, including the Babai valley (Garshelis et al. 1999, Jnawali et al. 2011, Dhariya et al. 2016). Although the evidence for presence of black bears in this valley is sporadic, these records suggest a marginal overlap with sloth bears in Nepal. A targeted study to better understand this dynamic would be very useful.

Acknowledgements
The camera-trap survey was a collaborative effort of the Government of Nepal, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Department of Forests, National Trust for Nature Conservation and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal. We would like to acknowledge all field technicians and team members.

Literature Cited
Bargali, H.S. 2012. Distribution of different species of bears and status of human-bear conflict in the State of Uttarakhand, India. Advances in Biological Research 6:121–127.
Dharaiya, N., H.S. Bargali and T. Sharp. 2016. Melursus ursinus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T13143A45033815. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T13143A45033815.en
Garshelis, D. and R. Steinmetz. 2016. Ursus thibetanus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22824A114252336. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22824A45034242.en
Garshelis, D.L., A.R. Joshi, J.L.D. Smith, and C. G. Rice. 1999. Sloth bear conservation action plan. Pages 225–240 in C. Servheen, S. Herrero, and B. Peyton, compilers. Bears: Status survey and conservation action plan.IUCN/SSC Bear and Polar Bear Specialist Groups. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
Jnawali, S.R., H.S. Baral, S. Lee, K.P. Acharya, G.P. Upadhyay, M. Pandey, R. Shrestha, D. Joshi, B.R. Laminchhane, J. Griffiths and A.P. Khatiwada. 2011. The status of Nepal mammals: The national Red List series. Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Kathmandu, Nepal.

 

Shailendra Kumar Yadav

National Trust for Nature Conservation – Annapurna Conservation Area Project
Hariyokharka, Pokhara, Nepal
Email: shailendrayadav69@gmail.com

Babu Ram Lamichhane

Member: Sloth Bear Expert Team, IUCN Bear Specialist Group
National Trust for Nature Conservation – Biodiversity Conservation Center
Sauraha, Chitwan, Nepal
Email: baburaml@gmail.com

Naresh Subedi

National Trust for Nature Conservation
Khumaltar, Lalitput, Nepal
Email: nareshsubedi@gmail.com

Maheshwar Dhakal

Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation
Singhadurbar, Kathmandu, Nepal
Email: maheshwar.dhakal@gmail.com

Ramesh Kumar Thapa

Bardia National Park (BNP), Thakurdwara, Bardia
Email: rameshkthapa@gmail.com

Laxman Poudyal

Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation
Babarmahal, Kathmandu, Nepal
Email: laxpoudyal@gmail.com

originally published in International Bear News 2017 Fall Vol. 26 No. 3 on pages 23-25