As in the rest of their range in Southern Asia, brown bears (Ursus arctos) are poorly studied in Pakistan. Historically, brown bears occupied almost the entire range of the mountains of northern Pakistan, approximately 150,000 km2. Their populations are declining and have gone extinct from some areas in the past 50 years. Brown bears are now distributed over 3 major mountain ranges and 4 intermountain highlands. The bears' range in Pakistan falls under 3 administrative divisions, and, as wildlife management is a provincial subject in Pakistan, these administrative divisions have separate governing legislation. Bears are legally protected, however, and recently designated as critically endangered in IUCN's Red List of Mammals of Pakistan. Seven populations probably persist in the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush ranges; the Deosai Plateau in western Himalaya hosts the only stable population. The sizes of these populations do not exceed 20 individuals, except for Deosai National Park, where 43 bears were counted in 2006. Seven national parks and many wildlife sanctuaries and game reserves, which provide legal protection to bears, have been established in the northern mountains of Pakistan. Populations in Pakistan are probably connected to those in India (to the east), China (to the north), and Afghanistan (to the west). Growing human population, expanding infrastructure, increasing number of livestock, and increasing dependency on natural resources, particularly alpine pastures, are key threats. Poaching for its commercial parts and for cubs, and growing unmanaged tourism also contribute to population decline. The population has become conservation dependent, and actions like effective management of protected areas, better management of natural resources, and environmental education need immediate attention.
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