A momentous event has unfolded in the northern reaches of Sikkim as the elusive Tibetan brown bear (Ursus arctos pruinosus) has been officially spotted, marking the first confirmed record of the species in India, as reported by the Sikkim forest and environment department. Recent captures from trap cameras installed by the department and WWF-India in the upper reaches of Mangan district have revealed the presence of the Tibetan brown bear over the past month.
The groundbreaking discovery has sparked celebration among wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists, highlighting the significance of this find for biodiversity in the region. In an official statement released on Sunday, the department emphasized the importance of preserving and protecting Sikkim’s precious wildlife in light of this awe-inspiring revelation.
Describing the event as adding a new subspecies to the mammal diversity of the country, a wildlife expert expressed the significance of this sighting. For decades, foresters in high-altitude areas of the Tso-Lhamo plateau and Muguthang, while interacting with nomadic herders known as Dokpas, had heard accounts of a large unidentified animal stealing supplies from the herders’ camps. Numerous surveys were conducted without success until an extensive camera trap exercise finally led to the breakthrough.
Distinguished by its yellowish scarf-like collar broadening from the shoulders to the chest, the Tibetan brown bear differs markedly in appearance from the more commonly found Himalayan black bear. This omnivorous species typically inhabits high-altitude alpine forests and meadows at elevations of 4,000 meters and above.
Listed as an endangered species in the Himalayan region by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the Tibetan brown bear, sometimes referred to as the Tibetan blue bear, has been sighted in parts of Nepal, Bhutan, and the Tibetan plateau. Classified as a Schedule I animal under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and recognized as a protected species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the bear’s sighting in Sikkim adds another remarkable chapter to the region’s wildlife documentation. Notably, earlier instances included photographs of the royal Bengal tiger and the gaur (Indian bison) taken at higher altitudes in the Himalayan state, setting records for the highest tiger sighting from sea level in India and the gaur at the highest point worldwide.