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Food-Water scarcity taking wildlife outside their territory

by Staff Correspondent
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Gourav Narayan | The TrickyScribe: Of the human-wildlife conflicts worldwide, most were reported within the animal’s territory. Bihar is perhaps the lone Sloth Bear habitat where such conflicts are reported outside it. The prime cause being the availability of food and water! Animals don’t have many requirements. Do they?

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The reason behind my emphasis on ‘perhaps’ in The scarcity that “Bihar is perhaps the lone Sloth Bear habitat where such conflicts are reported outside the animal’s territory” being, similar conflicts can occur in other habitats and also with other species irrespective of their location in case they suffer the same levels of food and water shortage.

CLASSIFIED VULNERABLE: Sloth bears are classed as vulnerable by IUCN with a decreasing population due to human encroachment, their location and poaching. The average such conflicts of sloth bears ranges between 20 and25 years.

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In some parts of India, however, Sloth Bears routinely raid peanut, maize, and fruit crops.  In some of these areas the habitats are severely degraded and affected by human exploitation, including the extraction of several food sources of the SlothBear. The damages reported in Bihar by Sloth Bears are broadly classified into two categories: bite instances and damage to property.

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VARIED HABITATS: Sloth Bears occupy a wide range of habitats on the Indian mainland including wet and dry tropical forests, savannahs, scrublands and grasslands.

Sloth bears do not hibernate and whilst solitary, except for lactating mothers, seem to tolerate one another in shared ranges. MostSloth Bear ranges in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka are limited to habitats below the altitude of 1,500 m, although the species may occur as high as 2,000 m in the forests of Western Ghats.

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FOOD HABITS: Generally nocturnal, sloth bears are omnivorous; termites and ants being their main diet. Sloth bears use claws to break open insects’ mounds and nests, sucking them up through a gap in their incisors. They are reportedly fond of honey, hence derives their name “honey bear.”

Fruits may comprise 70‒90% of the diet during the fruiting season, whereas termites and other insects may comprise >80% of the diet the rest of the year.

Sloth Bears are the only species of bear adapted specifically for myrmecophagy (ant and termite-eating). The ratio of insects to fruits in the diet varies with the seasonal and geographical availability of food.

SLOTH BEARS AVOID HUMAN CONTACT: Studies in India, Nepal and SriLanka indicate that Sloth Bears avoid areas where human interference is high, so crop depredation by Sloth Bears is uncommon.

Of the 15 reported instances of Sloth Bear attacking humans, most took place in the morning and many of them marked more than 60 percent damage to the victim’s body. The season summers; right before their mating season. Males are seen to be more aggressive than the females, in case they are not with their cubs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It is first of our series on Human-Wildlife conflict. Stay tuned!

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