Nepalese Tree Bear

Unknown Bear of Central Asia.

Scientific names: Selenarctos arboreus, given by Thomas Oldham in 1869; Ursus nepalensis, given by Daniel Taylor-Ide in 1983.

Variant name: Rukh balu (Nepali/Indo-Aryan, "tree bear").

Physical description: Weight, about 150 pounds. Black fur. The premolars and first two molars are smaller than the Asiatic black bear's.

Behavior: Primarily arboreal. Eats ripe corn at the end of the monsoon season. Constructs elaborate, complex tree nests.

Tracks: Has a claw on the side of its paw.

Habitat: Forested valleys.

Distribution: Makalu-Barun National Park in eastern Nepal.

Significant sighting: In 1983 and 1984, Daniel Taylor-Ide and Robert L. Fleming gathered reports from villagers in the Barun Valley that two different types of bear lived in the area: the Asiatic black bear and a smaller, more agile, arboreal variety. Eleven skulls were collected.

Present status: More comparisons with Asiatic black bear specimens are needed to establish a distinction.

Possible explanations:

(1) A juvenile Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus).

(2) A separate species or a subspecies of the Asiatic black bear.

Sources: Reginald I. Pocock, The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma: Mammalia (London: Taylor and Francis, 1939); "Evidence for New Bear Species in Nepal," ISC Newsletter 3, no. 1 (Spring 1984): 1-3; "New Nepal Bear Now in Doubt," ISC Newsletter 4, no. 1 (Spring 1985): 4; Raza Teshin (letter), ISC Newsletter 5, no. 6 (Summer 1986): 11; Daniel Taylor-Ide, Something Hidden behind the Ranges: A Himalayan Quest (San Francisco, Calif.: Mercury House, 1995), pp. 111-152, 177-183, 219-220, 253-258.

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