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Bear attacks increasing in northeast Yunnan

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The mauling of a man by a bear in Zhaotong (昭通) highlights a complicated situation in which conservation efforts are proving successful but also leading to more human-bear encounters.

A 44 year-old man from Daguan County (大关县) was attacked by an adult Asian black bear while herding cattle on May 24. During the assault, the man was knocked unconscious. When he awoke he walked for 30 minutes back to his village despite multiple broken bones and severe facial lacerations, Life newspaper is reporting.

The attack is the third of its kind in Daguan County this year. Villagers interviewed by Life said encounters with bears have spiked over the past 12 months. Increased interaction between bears and people in the area have been attributed to tougher anti-poaching laws which have resulted in rising bear populations.

Violent encounters with bears are relatively uncommon across the globe but increase when the animals are forced out of their natural environment and enter areas populated by people in search of food. Because of habitat loss, bear numbers have generally been on the decline in China since population records began being taken in the 1950s.

That trend appears to have reversed itself — at least in a few corners of Yunnan. A similar situation occurred in 2007 following the Three Parallel Rivers Protected Areas in the province's northwest receiving UNESCO status.

Asian black bears, also called moon bears, live in conifer forests in both northeast and southwest China. The animals can weigh up to 150 kilograms and be one meter tall at the shoulder. They are highly valued by poachers for their gall bladder bile, which is often prescribed in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent and as an aid to liver function.

Image: New Scientist

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Had no idea bears lived in Zhaotong!

But what's the deal with that picture? Is that a real bear? It looks like a person in a bear outfit.

You obviously know little to nothing about the Asian Black Bear, so let me fill you in, Matt from Georgia.

The Asian Black Bear is not only found in Zhaotong, but in many parts of Asia, including, but not limited to, the Indian Subcontinent, Taiwan, Korea, northeastern China, the Russian far east and the Honshū and Shikoku islands of Japan. While being similar to the Brown Bears that you Georgians can relate to, the Asian Black Bear interestingly is more lightly built with slender limbs. While being naturally diurnal, (not relating to one's bathroom habits) in places populated by humans they tend to be more nocturnal. Most importantly, they are characterized by the white V-shape on their chest.

Read more books, Matt from Georgia, and you might be able to learn more about this and other mammals native to Yunnan Province.

Or at least Wikipedia.

And I'm from Azerbaijan. Get it right.

Why so grizzly, Sean?

It really does look like a guy in a costume. Especially the way it poses. From the neck down. Ha..ha. too funny.

bloody Chinese medicine. It should be illegal to prescribe any substance taken from a wild animal, with long jail sentences for those who persist in doing so. For endangered animals the sentences should be even longer.

is there any way to see these bears in their natural habitat and admire them from a safe distance? :) Thanks

I saw what I am almost sure was a black bear in Cangshan about 3 weeks ago. I was walking the cloud path, the northern part past Zhonghe temple towards the road leading down to the 3 pagodas. The first thing I heard was a loud angry grunting sound from something LARGE, as I was rounding a bend, the sound from behind. Being by myself (not making much noise on the lookout for birds) and not knowing what it was it was a bit of a brown pants time. So I legged it for a few hundred metres and got to the point where I could look back, to see a large black shape through the first line of forest through the trees. A couple of days later I saw a sign on the southern end of the cloud path that said black bears roamed Cangshan...

Good to hear there are still some wild bears wandering around, but keep your distance & be smart.

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