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Rediscovery of the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) in Yingjiang County, Yunnan Province, China

Rediscovery of the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) in Yingjiang County, Yunnan Province, China ZOOLOGICAL RESEARCH Rediscovery of the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) in Yingjiang County, Yunnan Province, China the area, and expressed his skepticism about the provenance DEAR EDITOR, for Lydekker’s specimen, and argued that the skulls probably originated from the warmer regions of Yunnan Province while the The sun bear, Helarctos malayanus (Raffles, 1821), is a forest- skin was that of a Asiatic Black Bear (Wilson, 1913). dependent bear species distributed in tropical Southeast Asia. The first unequivocal record of sun bear occurrence in The species was previously reported from scattered localities in southern Yunnan came from Wang (1987), who collected a southwestern China, which is at the northeastern edge of its female specimen from the Red River Basin in 1972. Yin & Liu global range. Due to the scarcity of reliable recent records, (1993) reported the collection of two sun bear specimens from some authorities cast doubt on the continued existence of sun Tibet during 1987–1990, and reported that sun bears occurred bear in China. Here we present the rediscovery of this species at an altitudinal range of 3 000-3 500 m a.s.l. in Mangkang in Yingjiang County, western Yunnan Province, China, near the County. It is of note that the highest known elevational record international border with Myanmar’s Kachin State. for sun bear is at 2 143 m a.s.l. in Sumatra (Fredriksson et al., The sun bear, Helarctos malayanus (Raffles, 1821), is the 2008), the Tibet records thus warrant some investigation. Ma et rarest species in the family Ursidae in China, and is listed as a al. (1994) and Hu (1995) reported the capture of a sun bear in Category I species on the National Key Protected Animal List. Jingxi County of Guangxi Province, by the Sino-Vietnamese The latest Red List of China’s Vertebrates (Jiang et al., 2016) border, but these authors did not provide detailed information of evaluated the sun bear as Critically Endangered (CR), though this record. A number of publications reported the existence of globally it is categorized as Vulnerable (VU) species by the sun bears in Sichuan Province and the northwestern part of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, Yunnan, but these reports are not supported by solid evidence indicating the species has undergone a suspected >30% such as specimens or photos (Jiang et al., 2015; Shi & Zhao, decline in the global population (Fredriksson et al., 2008). 1982; Smith & Xie, 2008). The current status and distribution of Globally, the sun bear occurs in northeast India, Bangladesh, sun bear in China is unknown though it was listed in recent and throughout Southeast Asia including the islands of Sumatra publications (Pan et al., 2007; Wang, 2003), and some and Borneo. The sun bear is the most arboreal of all bear scientists suspected the species may already be extinct in species and is found predominantly in lowland dipterocarp China (Smith & Xie, 2008). rainforest (Smith & Xie, 2008). Due to habitat destruction and At 1927h on 23 October 2016, we obtained a 10 sec video poaching for their body parts as traditional medicine, the sun footage of a bear species by a camera trap installed in a bear is now extinct in Singapore (Fredriksson et al., 2008) and community forest in Yingjiang County, Dehong Dai and Jingpo has possibly become extinct more recently in Bangladesh Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province (Supplementary (Islam et al., 2010). Studies in Vietnam (Cano & Tellería, 2013), Video, available online). Despite the poor light, we could clearly Borneo (Meijaard, 1999) and Sumatra (Wong et al., 2013) also identify the subject animal as a sun bear with the following reported declines in both abundance and distribution, and the diagnostic features: head broad with a short snout; muzzle very species has been extirpated from much of its former range. short and pale in color; face pale in contrast to the black body; Literature on the presence of sun bear in China is scanty, and ears set low on sides of head, very small and rounded without the IUCN Red List stipulated that its current distribution in China ear tuft; coat black, very short and dense; crescent-shaped is unknown. Richard Lydekker (1849–1915), a British naturalist, pale-colored chest mark; limbs relatively slender and long, was the first to report the occurrence of sun bear in the Tibetan forelimbs bowed, forefeet turned inward. area of China. However, his specimen of two skulls and a skin The site of discovery is a disturbed montane rainforest at of unknown provenance came from a wildlife trader (i.e., 1 000 m a.s.l. at N24°32', E97°34', adjacent to Tongbiguan Rowland Ward Ltd.), and the author pointed out that the skin Provincial Nature Reserve (Tongbiguan NR) less than 1 km has external features of an Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) from the international border with Kachin State of Myanmar. rather than that of a sun bear (Lydekker, 1906). Ernest Henry Wilson (1876–1930), another English who spent 11 years exploring southwestern China collecting plants, subsequently Received: 05 May 2017; Accepted: 03 July 2017 analyzed the trade routes and patterns of wildlife products of DOI:10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2017.044 206 Science Press Zoological Research 38(4): 206-207, 2017 Camera traps from the same locality recorded several The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T9760A13014055. sympatric mammal species, including wild boar (Sus scrofa), http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T9760A13014055.en. red muntjac (Muntiacus vaginalis), Chinese serow (Capricornis Hu JC. 1995. The bear resource and its protection in Southwest China. milneedwardsii) and yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula). Journal of Sichuan Teachers College (Natural Science), 16(4): 274-278. (in We also camera-trapped the Asiatic black bear approximately Chinese) 1.8 km east of the sun bear site in the same forest block, Islam A, Muzaffar SB, Aziz A, Kabir M, Uddin M, Chakma S, Chowdhury SU, suggesting the two ursid species are sympatric in the western Rashid A, Chowdhury GW, Mohsanin S, Jahan I, Saif S, Hossain B, part of Yingjiang County. Chakma D, Kamruzzaman. 2010. Baseline survey of Bears in Bangladesh Our sun bear record from Yingjiang produced the first image 2008-2010. Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh. of the species for China, and represents a rediscovery of this Jiang ZG, Ma Y, Wu Y, Wang YX, Zhou KY, Liu SY, Feng ZJ. 2015. China’s species in Yunnan after an absence of 45 years. Although the Mammal Diversity and Geographic Distribution. Beijing: Science Press, 159. site of discovery is very close to the boundary of Tongbiguan (in Chinese) NR, the community forest is subject to high human Jiang ZG, Jiang JP, Wang YZ, Zhang E, Zhang YY, Li LL, Xie F, Cai B, Cao disturbances, and under threats from being cleared for L, Zheng GM, Dong L, Zhang ZW, Ding P, Luo ZH, Ding CQ, Ma ZJ, Tang agriculture, as well as hydro-dam and road construction. We SH, Cao WX, Li CW, Hu HJ, Ma Y, Wu Y, Wang YX, Zhou KY, Liu SY, Chen urge relevant government agencies to reconsider the necessity YY, Li JT, Feng ZJ, Wang Y, Wang B, Li C, Song XL, Cai L, Zang CX, Zeng of all development plans of the general area to avoid further Y, Meng ZB, Fang HX, Ping XG. 2016. Red list of China’s vertebrates. forest degradation, and step up protection and restoration Biodiversity Science, 24(5): 500-551. (in Chinese) efforts of natural forest surrounding Tongbiguan NR to Lydekker R. 1906. On the Occurrence of the Bruang in the Tibetan reconnect fragmented lowland forest blocks, so as to enhance Province. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 66: 997-999. the future survival of tropical wildlife such as the highly threatened sun bear. Ma YQ, Hu JC, Zhai QL. 1994. Bears of China. Chengdu: Sichuan Science and Technology Press, 1-146. (in Chinese) ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Meijaard E. 1999. Human-imposed threats to sun bears in Borneo. Ursus, 11: 185-192. We would like to express our gratitude to the Yingjiang County Propaganda Pan QH, Wang YX, Yan K. 2007. A Field Guide to the Mammals of China. Department and the Forestry Bureau, and local villagers for their hospitality, Beijing: China Forestry Publishing House, 96. (in Chinese) encouragement and support. We thank Quan Li of Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, for checking bear specimens in his Shi BN, Zhao EM. 1982. Sichuan Fauna Economica, Volume I: Overview. institution’s collection, Will Duckworth and Lorraine Scotson for verification of Chengdu: Sichuan People’s Publishing House, 84. (in Chinese) sun bear identification. Smith AT, Xie Y. 2008. A Guide to the Mammals of China. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 423-425. 1 1 2 1,* Wang YX. 1987. Biological Resource Survey Report of Honghe Region, Fei Li , Xi Zheng , Xue-Long Jiang , Bosco Pui Lok Chan southern Yunnan, Volume I. Kunming: Publishing House of Yunnan Kadoorie Conservation China, Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, Minority Nationalities, 13-14. (in Chinese) Hong Kong 999077, China. Wang YX. 2003. A Complete Checklist of Mammal Species and Subspecies State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, in China-A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Beijing: China Forestry Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Publishing House, 75-76. (in Chinese) Kunming Yunnan 650223, China Wilson EH. 1913. A Naturalist in Western China, with Vasculum, Camera, Corresponding author, E-mail: boscokf@kfbg.org and Gun: Being Some Account of Eleven Years’ Travel, Exploration, and Observation in the More Remote Parts of the Flowery Kingdom, Volume II. London: Methuen & Go., Ltd., 184-188. REFERENCES Wong WM, Leader-Williams N, Linkie M. 2013. Quantifying changes in sun bear distribution and their forest habitat in Sumatra. Animal Conservation, Cano LS, Tellería JL. 2013. Local ecological knowledge as a tool for 16(2): 216-223. assessing the status of threatened vertebrates: a case study in Vietnam. Oryx, 47(2): 177-183. Yin BG, Liu WL. 1993. Wildlife and its Conservation in Xizang. Beijing: Fredriksson G, Steinmetz R, Wong S, Garshelis DL. 2008. Helarctos malayanus. China Forestry Publishing House, 65. (in Chinese) Zoological Research 38(4): 206-207, 2017 207 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Zoological Research Pubmed Central

Rediscovery of the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) in Yingjiang County, Yunnan Province, China

Zoological Research , Volume 38 (4) – Jul 18, 2017

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Pubmed Central
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2095-8137
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2095-8137
DOI
10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2017.044
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Abstract

ZOOLOGICAL RESEARCH Rediscovery of the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) in Yingjiang County, Yunnan Province, China the area, and expressed his skepticism about the provenance DEAR EDITOR, for Lydekker’s specimen, and argued that the skulls probably originated from the warmer regions of Yunnan Province while the The sun bear, Helarctos malayanus (Raffles, 1821), is a forest- skin was that of a Asiatic Black Bear (Wilson, 1913). dependent bear species distributed in tropical Southeast Asia. The first unequivocal record of sun bear occurrence in The species was previously reported from scattered localities in southern Yunnan came from Wang (1987), who collected a southwestern China, which is at the northeastern edge of its female specimen from the Red River Basin in 1972. Yin & Liu global range. Due to the scarcity of reliable recent records, (1993) reported the collection of two sun bear specimens from some authorities cast doubt on the continued existence of sun Tibet during 1987–1990, and reported that sun bears occurred bear in China. Here we present the rediscovery of this species at an altitudinal range of 3 000-3 500 m a.s.l. in Mangkang in Yingjiang County, western Yunnan Province, China, near the County. It is of note that the highest known elevational record international border with Myanmar’s Kachin State. for sun bear is at 2 143 m a.s.l. in Sumatra (Fredriksson et al., The sun bear, Helarctos malayanus (Raffles, 1821), is the 2008), the Tibet records thus warrant some investigation. Ma et rarest species in the family Ursidae in China, and is listed as a al. (1994) and Hu (1995) reported the capture of a sun bear in Category I species on the National Key Protected Animal List. Jingxi County of Guangxi Province, by the Sino-Vietnamese The latest Red List of China’s Vertebrates (Jiang et al., 2016) border, but these authors did not provide detailed information of evaluated the sun bear as Critically Endangered (CR), though this record. A number of publications reported the existence of globally it is categorized as Vulnerable (VU) species by the sun bears in Sichuan Province and the northwestern part of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, Yunnan, but these reports are not supported by solid evidence indicating the species has undergone a suspected >30% such as specimens or photos (Jiang et al., 2015; Shi & Zhao, decline in the global population (Fredriksson et al., 2008). 1982; Smith & Xie, 2008). The current status and distribution of Globally, the sun bear occurs in northeast India, Bangladesh, sun bear in China is unknown though it was listed in recent and throughout Southeast Asia including the islands of Sumatra publications (Pan et al., 2007; Wang, 2003), and some and Borneo. The sun bear is the most arboreal of all bear scientists suspected the species may already be extinct in species and is found predominantly in lowland dipterocarp China (Smith & Xie, 2008). rainforest (Smith & Xie, 2008). Due to habitat destruction and At 1927h on 23 October 2016, we obtained a 10 sec video poaching for their body parts as traditional medicine, the sun footage of a bear species by a camera trap installed in a bear is now extinct in Singapore (Fredriksson et al., 2008) and community forest in Yingjiang County, Dehong Dai and Jingpo has possibly become extinct more recently in Bangladesh Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province (Supplementary (Islam et al., 2010). Studies in Vietnam (Cano & Tellería, 2013), Video, available online). Despite the poor light, we could clearly Borneo (Meijaard, 1999) and Sumatra (Wong et al., 2013) also identify the subject animal as a sun bear with the following reported declines in both abundance and distribution, and the diagnostic features: head broad with a short snout; muzzle very species has been extirpated from much of its former range. short and pale in color; face pale in contrast to the black body; Literature on the presence of sun bear in China is scanty, and ears set low on sides of head, very small and rounded without the IUCN Red List stipulated that its current distribution in China ear tuft; coat black, very short and dense; crescent-shaped is unknown. Richard Lydekker (1849–1915), a British naturalist, pale-colored chest mark; limbs relatively slender and long, was the first to report the occurrence of sun bear in the Tibetan forelimbs bowed, forefeet turned inward. area of China. However, his specimen of two skulls and a skin The site of discovery is a disturbed montane rainforest at of unknown provenance came from a wildlife trader (i.e., 1 000 m a.s.l. at N24°32', E97°34', adjacent to Tongbiguan Rowland Ward Ltd.), and the author pointed out that the skin Provincial Nature Reserve (Tongbiguan NR) less than 1 km has external features of an Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) from the international border with Kachin State of Myanmar. rather than that of a sun bear (Lydekker, 1906). Ernest Henry Wilson (1876–1930), another English who spent 11 years exploring southwestern China collecting plants, subsequently Received: 05 May 2017; Accepted: 03 July 2017 analyzed the trade routes and patterns of wildlife products of DOI:10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2017.044 206 Science Press Zoological Research 38(4): 206-207, 2017 Camera traps from the same locality recorded several The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T9760A13014055. sympatric mammal species, including wild boar (Sus scrofa), http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T9760A13014055.en. red muntjac (Muntiacus vaginalis), Chinese serow (Capricornis Hu JC. 1995. The bear resource and its protection in Southwest China. milneedwardsii) and yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula). Journal of Sichuan Teachers College (Natural Science), 16(4): 274-278. (in We also camera-trapped the Asiatic black bear approximately Chinese) 1.8 km east of the sun bear site in the same forest block, Islam A, Muzaffar SB, Aziz A, Kabir M, Uddin M, Chakma S, Chowdhury SU, suggesting the two ursid species are sympatric in the western Rashid A, Chowdhury GW, Mohsanin S, Jahan I, Saif S, Hossain B, part of Yingjiang County. Chakma D, Kamruzzaman. 2010. Baseline survey of Bears in Bangladesh Our sun bear record from Yingjiang produced the first image 2008-2010. Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh. of the species for China, and represents a rediscovery of this Jiang ZG, Ma Y, Wu Y, Wang YX, Zhou KY, Liu SY, Feng ZJ. 2015. China’s species in Yunnan after an absence of 45 years. Although the Mammal Diversity and Geographic Distribution. Beijing: Science Press, 159. site of discovery is very close to the boundary of Tongbiguan (in Chinese) NR, the community forest is subject to high human Jiang ZG, Jiang JP, Wang YZ, Zhang E, Zhang YY, Li LL, Xie F, Cai B, Cao disturbances, and under threats from being cleared for L, Zheng GM, Dong L, Zhang ZW, Ding P, Luo ZH, Ding CQ, Ma ZJ, Tang agriculture, as well as hydro-dam and road construction. We SH, Cao WX, Li CW, Hu HJ, Ma Y, Wu Y, Wang YX, Zhou KY, Liu SY, Chen urge relevant government agencies to reconsider the necessity YY, Li JT, Feng ZJ, Wang Y, Wang B, Li C, Song XL, Cai L, Zang CX, Zeng of all development plans of the general area to avoid further Y, Meng ZB, Fang HX, Ping XG. 2016. Red list of China’s vertebrates. forest degradation, and step up protection and restoration Biodiversity Science, 24(5): 500-551. (in Chinese) efforts of natural forest surrounding Tongbiguan NR to Lydekker R. 1906. On the Occurrence of the Bruang in the Tibetan reconnect fragmented lowland forest blocks, so as to enhance Province. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 66: 997-999. the future survival of tropical wildlife such as the highly threatened sun bear. Ma YQ, Hu JC, Zhai QL. 1994. Bears of China. Chengdu: Sichuan Science and Technology Press, 1-146. (in Chinese) ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Meijaard E. 1999. Human-imposed threats to sun bears in Borneo. Ursus, 11: 185-192. We would like to express our gratitude to the Yingjiang County Propaganda Pan QH, Wang YX, Yan K. 2007. A Field Guide to the Mammals of China. Department and the Forestry Bureau, and local villagers for their hospitality, Beijing: China Forestry Publishing House, 96. (in Chinese) encouragement and support. We thank Quan Li of Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, for checking bear specimens in his Shi BN, Zhao EM. 1982. Sichuan Fauna Economica, Volume I: Overview. institution’s collection, Will Duckworth and Lorraine Scotson for verification of Chengdu: Sichuan People’s Publishing House, 84. (in Chinese) sun bear identification. Smith AT, Xie Y. 2008. A Guide to the Mammals of China. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 423-425. 1 1 2 1,* Wang YX. 1987. Biological Resource Survey Report of Honghe Region, Fei Li , Xi Zheng , Xue-Long Jiang , Bosco Pui Lok Chan southern Yunnan, Volume I. Kunming: Publishing House of Yunnan Kadoorie Conservation China, Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, Minority Nationalities, 13-14. (in Chinese) Hong Kong 999077, China. Wang YX. 2003. A Complete Checklist of Mammal Species and Subspecies State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, in China-A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Beijing: China Forestry Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Publishing House, 75-76. (in Chinese) Kunming Yunnan 650223, China Wilson EH. 1913. A Naturalist in Western China, with Vasculum, Camera, Corresponding author, E-mail: boscokf@kfbg.org and Gun: Being Some Account of Eleven Years’ Travel, Exploration, and Observation in the More Remote Parts of the Flowery Kingdom, Volume II. London: Methuen & Go., Ltd., 184-188. REFERENCES Wong WM, Leader-Williams N, Linkie M. 2013. Quantifying changes in sun bear distribution and their forest habitat in Sumatra. Animal Conservation, Cano LS, Tellería JL. 2013. Local ecological knowledge as a tool for 16(2): 216-223. assessing the status of threatened vertebrates: a case study in Vietnam. Oryx, 47(2): 177-183. Yin BG, Liu WL. 1993. Wildlife and its Conservation in Xizang. Beijing: Fredriksson G, Steinmetz R, Wong S, Garshelis DL. 2008. Helarctos malayanus. China Forestry Publishing House, 65. (in Chinese) Zoological Research 38(4): 206-207, 2017 207

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Zoological ResearchPubmed Central

Published: Jul 18, 2017

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