Saving the real life teddy bear

Did you know that bears are able to communicate using 11 different sounds?

Bears are not only incredibly intelligent, they are also very talkative; from grunting, growling, moaning to even barking (yes, you read that right!).

It is widely believed that Italians are the masters of non-verbal communication and say more using their body than their mouth.

However, bears, specifically the Marsican Brown Bear, have also mastered this art - making them one of the top predators in the wild.

The Marsican Brown Bear, known scientifically as Ursus Arctos, is a critically endangered subspecies of the Eurasian Brown Bear found in very small, isolated populations in the Apennine mountains of Italy. The Marsican Brown Bear is natively referred to as ‘Orso Bruno Marsicano’. This name is derived from the old site of Marsica – a region in the Abruzzo – where bears have long lived and prospered.

The world is changing, and so is its wild population

Despite their huge stature in the wild and domineering presence in the food chain, bears are in-fact very sensitive animals and are largely misunderstood.

All over the world bear populations are dwindling at an alarming rate.

Unfortunately, we humans are largely to blame, but other natural factors such as diseases, low reproductive rates and depression (yes, depression!) are also at play here. Years ago, hundreds of Marsican Brown Bears were freely living in the Italian mountains and Alps. Shockingly in 2021 the Marsican Brown Bear population was estimated around 50.

Only 50!

Based on children’s literature and nature documentaries, it could be easy to envision bears living a dreamy, easy life - sun, swimming, long naps and eating honey. Sadly however, this is not the case for the Marsican Brown Bear. Since the early 1950’s the Marsican Brown Bear population has slowly depleted as a direct result of urbanisation, gentrification and deforestation; forcing the Marsican Brown Bear from their original habitats, deep into the mountains and forest areas.

Only 50 specimens left: Brown Marsican Bears are critically endangered

“Listed in Criteria D of the IUCN European Mammal Assessment, in CITES Appendix II, as endangered by the European Community and in the Italian World Wildlife Fund Red List, Brown Marsican Bears are now protected by Italian law”. With their existence rapidly declining, the Italian government has begun to stress the importance of their long-term conservation; making the Park of Abruzzo a permanent sanctuary for these beautiful creatures. 

Many Italian regions, such as Trentino Alto Adige, have begun fundraising and running events to help raise awareness for our furry friends.

Bears took centre stage in many aspects of our childhood while growing up - populating our imaginations and the bed-time stories we were told.

Winnie the Pooh, Baloo and the beloved Paddington: what do all of these sweet characters have in common? They’re all bears!

We grew up viewing bears as easy-going, warm and cuddly friends that enjoy a care-free life eating honey and snoozing, but how much of that is true?

Suprisingly almost all of it, aside from the cuddly part! But what else do we know about these big teddies?

Sweet, caring and super fast

Bears care very deeply about their family members. So deeply in fact, that if you were to ever spot a bear cub out in the wild, we’d strongly suggest you stay as far back as possible, as mother bears are notoriously protective of their cubs. Female bears can weigh upward of 315 kilograms, with males tipping the scale at a whopping 770 kilograms! Despite their sheer size, bears are incredibly fast when it comes to climbing and running, reaching speeds upwards of 31mph!

To put that into perspective: in 2009 Usain Bolt broke the 100 metre sprint world record, reaching a top speed of 27.3 mph. If the worlds fastest man can’t outrun a bear, what chance do we normal folk have?

Saving species: every little helps

As for many other endangered species there still so much that we humans can do. Below (or Baloo) are some great ways you can help.
1. Learn about endangered species in your area.
2. Visit a national wildlife refuge, park or other open space.
3. Make your home wildlife-friendly.
4. By using native plants you can provide food and shelter for native wildlife.
5. Refrain from using pesticides and herbicides and use more natural methods.
6. Slow down when driving in natural places.
7. Buy sustainable products and recycle.
8. Encourage your local government to make commitments to protecting wildlife and their habitats
9. Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species.
10. Never stress out or harass wildlife- this is both cruel and illegal!
11. Protect wildlife habitat, whether this is through donations to a conservation charity or climate change organisation, litter-picking in your local area, or volunteering.
12. You can also adopt endangered species, such as the bear through charity organisations such as Born Free.

There is no such thing as too small an action to take!

Brown Marsican Bears need you: read about them, talk to people, watch and share videos, stories, cartoons and never forget that raising awareness about endangered animals is the first important step to preserve biodiversity, and therefore to save the world. And remember: we are nature.

Guest article written by Mariarita Loprete.

- October 20, 2021