The Asiatic black bear's scientific name, Selenarctos thibetanus, literally means "moon bear of Tibet." It is called the moon bear
because of the large yellowish cresent-shaped marking on its chest. It is also known as the Tibetan black bear and the
Himalayan black bear.
The range of the Asiatic black bear very widely spreads across the southern part of Asia, all the way from Pakistan, across the
northern part of India and the southern part of China. It can also be found in northeastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and
southern Siberia. The Asiatic black bear found in Taiwan is known as the
Formosan black bear. Those in Japan are referred to as
Japanese black bears
Asiatic black bears prefer heavily forested mountainous areas and moist tropical forests. At times, they can be found at elevations
of up to 13,000 feet. However, they will move to lower elevations as the weather gets colder. Their territories are usually less
than 0.5 square miles, depending on how abundant their food supply is.
Asiatic black bears are said to be nocturnal in most regions, spending the day sleeping in caves or hollow trees, coming out at
night to feed. In other areas, however, they are found to be more active in the daytime. Many of the bears in the northern regions
are known to hibernate for the winter.
Asiatic black bears are considered to be "medium" sized bears with bodies ranging from 50 to 77 inches in length and weight variation
of 220 to 440 pounds. Females are smaller, weighing from 110 to 275 pounds. They have jet black fur with a thick mane-like ruff
around their neck. In addition to the yellow moon on their chest, they have a brown or tan muzzle and a whitish chin. Their ears
are fairly large and are set rather far apart. Their claws are short and strong for climbing trees.
Unlike American black bears, Asiatic black bears are much more likely to come
into contact with humans. Because of this, they
are known to be much more aggressive toward humans. There are numerous records of human attacks and killings.
Like most other bears, the Asiatic black bear is omnivorous, feeding on both vegetation and other animals. Its diet includes fruit,
grasses, honey, nuts, invertebrates, birds, fish, rodents, and carrion. Though meats are a very small portion of its diet, it is
believed to be more carnivorous than the American black bear.
Female Asiatic black bears become sexually mature at about 4 years of age. Mating takes place at various times of the year
depending on their region. The gestation period varies from 7 to 8 months. Like with other bears, there is a delay in the
implantation of the embryo. The cubs will usually remain with their mother for about 2 years or until her next breeding cycle.
The Asiatic black bear is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
(IUCN). It is also protected from trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Regardless, it is still highly prized on the black market.
They are often hunted for their gallbladders to obtain bile for use in medicines. In addition, they are threatened by poaching and
destruction of its habitat from deforestation. Asiatic bears have lived up to 32 years in captivity. Their average life span in the
wild is believed to be about 25 to 30 years.