We spent this morning discussing the conservation of the brown bear and looked at the breakdown of brown bear populations across Europe.
Before we get to the Europe-specific stuff though, I thought it would be useful to explain a little about bears in general…
There are eight species of bear living throughout the world, apart from Australia, Africa and Antarctica.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists six of the world’s eight species of bear as vulnerable or endangered and inevitably this sadly means that bears are faced with a wide range of threats to their welfare.
I often get asked why there are no bears in Africa and Antarctica, as there are definite spots around the world where you will just never see a bear, so I have time to shed some light on that!
There used to be bears in parts of northern Africa, but they are believed to have been hunted out of existence during the times of the Roman Empire. The Romans used to capture bears and use them in staged battles in the Roman Coliseums throughout the Mediterranean area.
Although bear species have dispersed to many regions of the earth, they never managed to reach Australia or Antarctica.
Bears once lived in the north of Africa but there is no evidence they moved into central or southern Africa. Having crossed the land bridges from Asia into North America, they dispersed right through the USA and Canada and also down into South America where today the Spectacled bear is still found in the Andes Mountains areas as far south as Bolivia.
But back to Europe, where the expansion of cities has greatly destroyed their habitat and now in Europe there are only small areas where bears are left.
There are now only around 300 bears left in the forests of Northern Greece, approximately 150 in Spain, and less than 100 in Italy.
France has even less, with an estimated population of less than 20 European brown bears.
This is shocking when compared to the fact that 5000 bears still live in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, where WSPA's sanctuary is situated.
We even used to have bears living in the UK, but the last bear was hunted and killed at least 1000 years ago. A big theme that will be recurring during the conference - as it affects almost all bear conservation and welfare work - is how people can live alongside bear populations further threatening them.
Back to join the conference now. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the spread of different bear populations and species around the world, then here are some resources for you - hope you find them useful.