Status and Distribution of Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) in Dampa Tiger Reserve, Mizoram, India
Keywords:Camera trapping, deserted areas, foraging signs, non-invasive technique, sun bear
Malayan sun bear is the smallest among all bears and the only tropical bear species inhabiting the lowland tropical forest of Southeast Asia. Once abundant, they are now considered as priority species due to excessive poaching and hunting across their home range. Although reported from several parts of Northeast India, the paucity of biological information on the species and its distribution has been a major constrained for conservation efforts. The study in Dampa Tiger Reserve, Mizoram, India determines the ecology, distribution and habitat selection of Sun bear, using foraging signs and invasive camera trapping techniques. A total of 43 transects were walked with 310 sampling plot. Evidence in forms of claw marks was found to be highest (60.23%) followed by scats (25.81%), nests (3.56%), cavity (6.23%) and footprints (4.15%). The mean occurrence of bear signs was 17.2±0.8. Bamboo forest and Tropical semi-evergreen forest with elevation between 501-1000 msl were found to be the most preferred habitat for sun bear. Majority of sun bear signs (74.1%) were observed in undisturbed forest regardless of sites (r2= 0.8291, df= 3, p< 0.2713). With a camera trapping effort of 647 trap-nights, 18 independent images of sun bear were obtained. The photo-capture and block wise distribution index was estimated to be 5.26 with a trapping index of 1.89. Deserted areas within the tiger reserve serve as excellent sources of frugivory and fruiting phenology. From the study, it was determined that the population of sun bear in the region is relatively low and restricted to a few patches within the reserve. Habitats of sun bear are also under serious threats due to agricultural expansion and ever-increasing dependency of local communities on forest resources, hence immediate measures are needed for the conservation of sun bear in the region.
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