There are lots of ways to help bears, and here are just a few. Of course, many of us don’t live alongside native bears, although they used to roam the woods of even England, back in medieval times. But bears are endangered, and there are lots of ways we can help them from afar.
Bear Smart is an international organisation dedicated to people living peacefully with bears. Of course, one reason why these giants come into contact with humans, is because they are opportunists who are losing natural habitats, so feast on food litter left at camping sites etc. The site sells bear-resistant food containers and information on creating bear smart communities. Bear Wise has tips on keeping dogs safe near bear habitats.
Each year black bears are killed in Yosemite, as a direct result of human carelessness and improper food storage. Some call it a ‘bear problem’, but bears are not to blame. Yosemite NP
Bears are mammals, did you know they are cousins of dogs? If you look at their noses, they are quite similar. What do you know about bears? That they eat lots of fish, and hibernate in winter and have cuddly cubs? There is a lot more to bears than that:
- Polar bears are carnivores (they live almost exclusively on seals) that live in the Arctic (never in the South, where you would see penguins – these creatures would never meet in the wild). As we know (apart from Donald Trump), the ice-caps are melting and polar bears are starving, as this takes away their food sources. They have one or two cubs and are devoted mothers. Some people in Canada still hunt seals for meat and fur (the market in the EU has now closed, partly due to the work of Caroline Lucas MP, when she was an MEP).
- Grizzly bears are the brown and black bears you see, that live mostly in the woods. Not just in North America, they live worldwide and especially in the heavily forested areas of Europe.
- Spectacled bears live mostly in South America. They are called this, because they have rings around their eyes, making them look like they are wearing a pair of glasses.
- Sloth bears can teach us to slow down. They have poor digestion so can’t move very fast, and mostly live in trees.
- Sun bears live in Asia, and suffer greatly to produce bile for the Chinese medicine industry. Even though there is no scientific proof that it works. They are kept in cages their whole lives. Like orangutans, some are endangered through the use of palm oil.
- Panda bears live mostly in China. Although the government looks after the wild bears well, the breeding programs are not so kind. And many pandas live in zoos. They have very bad digestion so have to keep eating bamboo constantly, as it passes through them. Industrial bamboo (used for clothing, coffins, paper and reusable toothbrushes) is not taken from panda habitats. The reason they have black eyes is due to an old tale: a kind girl looked after them, and when she died, they rubbed mud over their faces and arms, to show their sorrow. That has carried on, so they never forget her!
- Koala bears are not bears at all. They are like (like kangaroos) marsupials. They live in trees too and again like panda bears, constantly eat leaves (eucalyptus) as they have poor digestion.
To help all bears:
- Never visit zoos or circuses with bears. Born Free is not a fan of using bears as conservation, most are miserable and only looked at for 20 seconds by children, suggesting entertainment over education. If people didn’t visit zoos, animals would not be bred (and then killed, like they have been at Longleat) and bears would be rehabilitated and conserved in proper wild parks, not just glorified zoos.
- Never support dancing bears. If you see bear abuse abroad, contact Born Free who can investigate. Also tell your tour operator, the police and produce photos, if safe to do so.
- Donate to Romania’s Bear Sanctuary. This wonderful sanctuary has rescued nearly all the roadside zoo bears, who now live a life of joy in a beautiful forest sanctuary. A good way to donate is to buy their beautiful book, full of photos of deliriously happy rescued bears. Four Paws charity helps bears abroad, used for bile.
- Help koalas by donating to hospitals still recovering from helping them during the bushfires, they are replanting eucalyptus trees for something to eat, and setting up water stations. The well-meaning people who knitted mittens for burns are now asked not to, as it found it didn’t help. What does help is checking the source of any eucalyptus oil you buy, because some companies are killing koalas, through unethical use of harvesting machines, in order to chop forest for profit. So check source, before you buy.
Meet Sulo the Bearman
This is lovely. Sulo (a Finnish man who looks a bit like a bear himself) and his brother take care of rescued bears in the vast wilderness. Obviously it’s not good to get too close to a bear like this in real life (he’ll likely eat you). But this is a very special relationship with thankful bears.