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International conference on bears starts Monday

Posted on Nov 26, 10:29AM | IANS

Bear experts from 35 countries will present their latest research findings at the 21st International Conference on Bear Research and Management (IBA 2012), which begins here Monday.

The IBA Conference, being held for the first time in India, is being jointly hosted by the ministry of environment and forests, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the Central Zoo Authority, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

A total of 180 research papers will be presented during the five-day conference. The 350-400 participants include members of the International Association for Bear Research and Management, IUCN-SSC Bear Specialist Group, bear experts, field researchers, students and managers of bear populations and habitats.

"India is unique in having four of the eight species of bears in the world," said S. Sathyakumar, a WII scientist.

"With this conference, a new chapter has been initiated in Indian wildlife conservation. We are not just hosting an international conference on bears for the first time in south Asia, but also bringing a much needed action plan and focus for similar other species in addition to our popular flagships."

"The IBA conferences provide a platform for the researchers to share their findings, so that these can be put into use to save the bears," said Vivek Menon, executive director, WTI.

IBA is the largest conference focused on all eight bear species found across the globe. It is held alternatively in the Americas and Eurasia on an 18-month rotation.

With India being the host, the conference focus this year will be on Indian bears (Himalayan Black Bear, Himalayan Brown Bear, Sloth Bear and Sun Bear).

The conference will bring into focus the bear as an animal of national priority. Till date, tiger, elephant, rhino, and snow leopard have been used for the overall representation of Indian wildlife. These species have but limited spatial spread and are region-specific. Bears however have a more pan-India distribution.

The conference will see the launch of India's National Bear Conservation and Welfare Action Plan.

There will be a post-conference workshop on rescue and rehabilitation of bears in Kaziranga National Park in Assam Dec 3.