Captured on a camera trap in central Vietnam, a rare probable sighting of a Tibetan black bear (© WWF-Vietnam) Click here for more information

Accepted scientific name: Ursus thibetanus thibetanus  (G.[Baron] Cuvier, 1823)

Description:  Males are around 150cm to 190cm long, the smaller females around 100cm to 150cm long.  Males average between 100 and 120kg and females 50 to 125kg.  Black fur with a white to off-white crescent-shaped patch on the chest.  Distinguished from the Himalayan black bear by a shorter and thinner pelage with little or no underwool.

Range:  Indian province of Assam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) Nepal, Thailand (north of the Kra Isthmus) and central Vietnam.  Possibly also present in Bhutan, Tibet and Yunnan, China.

Approximate range of Tibetan black bear outlined in blue (Wikitravel/Bear Conservation – Creative Commons Licence)

Habitat:  Mountain and hill forested areas of range up to around 3,000 metres.

 Status:  Population data is poor but numbers seem likely to be falling.  Listed by the IUCN as vulnerable.

Life span:  Around 25 years in the wild, in excess of 30 years in captivity.

Food:  The Asiatic Black Bear is omnivorous but is more carnivorous in habit than the American black bear (Ursus americanus).  Will take carrion including, at least historically, tiger kills.  Small mammals, forbs (flowering plants), grasses, nuts, berries, fruit, insects, larvae, and honey.  Also known to take cultivated fruit from orchards, crops and livestock.

Behaviour:. Generally nocturnal in habit, probably as a result of human incursion into their habitat.  The bears have a reputation of being aggressive when confronted.   They spend the winter in a den, most often made in rock cavities, hollow trees, or under tree roots.  Sexually mature at three or four years of age with mating usually taking place in June or July with one to four cubs (most often two) born in January or February in the winter den.  Cubs are weaned at around six months but will remain with the mother for between 18 and 30 months, during which time she will not become pregnant again.  Tibetan black bears are known to be powerful swimmers.

Threats:  Habitat destruction and poaching for use of bear parts in medicine.  Conflict with humans is increasing as habitat is lost and is further exacerbated by the tendancy of these bears to react aggressively towards people.


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Page updated 16 February 2021