On Tuesday evening, two of my colleagues (Iris Mazurek and Neil D’Cruze) who run our human-bear conflict projects and Emre Cen (from our Turkish member society and partner charity, see earlier post) presented on one of the main issues of this conference that is affecting bears worldwide.
Namely, how can man and bear live in harmony?
Presenting alongside them was John Beecham – an important person in the bear conservation world. John is the Chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature human-bear conflict specialist group.
The team’s presentation included a documentary produced by WSPA and presented by WSPA’s wildlife officer Neil D’Cruze, called 'Bear vs. Man; the endless conflict'.
This is a conflict the bears have no control over. They simply get on with their lives and people clash with them.
This is a key issue for this conference and has always affected bears for thousands of years; bears and man have nearly always competed for space and resources.
A good example would be when man destroys forests to plant agricultural crops right next to the bear’s habitat, which the bears think is a great thing!
They come out of their habitat to eat the crops planted right on their doorsteps, but the farmers aren’t quite so happy. They begin to see the bears as pests and that can result in bears being killed.
Another example can be referenced straight out of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh cartoon bear with his beloved pot of honey.
Real bears love honey too and beehive farmers around the world tend to keep their beehives near forest areas. Keeping hives in this way allows bees access to pollen from the forest flowers, but the bears see it as free honey (of course!) and will destroy beehives to get at the energy-rich food. The bears can ruin the farmers’ livelihoods, who then view them with real dislike.
But, WSPA and Doga Dernegi have been working in Turkey to create simple yet innovative solutions that work, making life between bears and beekeepers far more harmonious.
Putting the hives on a platform out of the bears’ reach is a highly effective way of dealing with this particular problem. Read more >>
The last and most common conflict occurs in towns and villages surrounded by forests where bears come out of their wooded areas into the streets to eat food discarded in rubbish bins, a behaviour often referred to as 'bin raiding'.
You may well have seen examples of bear bin raids in documentaries on TV.
All in all, these conflicts mean that the bears can be seen as dangerous pests and sadly in many countries this is resolved by killing the bears.
WSPA has been working on this for the past decade, as we see this as a major threat to bears around the world.
We have produced reports and specialist websites showing methods of preventing these conflicts without resorting to killing bears and I hope that the information we shared at this conference will be useful to other groups and individuals working on the same issue.
Sorry for the long post, but as you can see, I have a lot to say on this particular subject!