BENGALURU: In a first of its kind research initiative to conserve indigenous species of sloth bears in India, Wildlife SOS is studying the denning patterns & ecology of wild sloth bears in Karnataka. The conservation charity Wildlife SOS Bear Rescue Centre in Bannerghatta first initiated this research in 2014.
The study focuses on the ecology and denning patterns of sloth bears at Tumakuru, Ramanagara, Daroji and Gudekote forest divisions in the state of Karnataka. It is being led by Wildlife SOS Director (Wildlife Veterinary Operations), Dr Arun A. Sha, Senior Biologist Swaminathan and US-based wildlife biologist & IUCN Sloth Bear Expert, Thomas Sharp.
The team has recently expanded their research to Ramdurga, Ballari and Arsikere divisions as well.
Over the years, sloth bear population has declined as they are victims of poaching and killed as a result of man-animal conflict situations. In addition, the loss of habitat and fragmented forest cover has further affected their survival.
Owing to these factors, the species was listed as ‘vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red Data List and calls for extensive conservation efforts to ensure their survival.
Dr Sha said, “The study so far has shown great potential. We have had the opportunity to collect data and monitor several wild sloth bears as well as analyse other wildlife species in the areas with the help of camera traps. We have identified over 500 resting dens and 42 maternal dens that are used by female bears to birth and nurture their cubs, across our project areas in the Deccan Plateau.”
The camera trap videos report the use of chemical communication techniques by the male bears to mark the den sites. These include pede-marking (twisting the foot on the ground in an attempt to apply scent), defecation, urination and rubbing or scratching against trees.
The team has observed that the sloth bear population is very much isolated in term of ecology. The existing bear habitat is highly fragmented and degraded, in addition to intersperse with human habitat. The constant human interface has also led to changes in their behavior.
Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder & CEO Wildlife SOS said, “Of all the eight bear species in the world, the sloth bears is the least researched. Our focus is to encourage sound scientific research aimed at their conservation. In addition, our team is also educating the local communities to minimize human-sloth bear conflict.”...