Once found in large numbers in northern Pakistan, the Himalayan brown bear is now a critically endangered species.
Only small populations can still be found in places like the Deosai National Park.
According to wildlife conservationists, the animals face two major threats: the loss of their high-altitude habitat, and hunting, especially by poachers, who sell bear parts to the Asian market for traditional medicine.
“The reason a lot of these animals are hunted, I would say, are two different categories. One is for hunting itself where people get a kick out of killing animals and making trophies out of them. The other is ignorance – ignorance because you think that eating a body part or making an oil or something out of an animal gives you superhuman strength,” says wildlife conservationist and documentary filmmaker Nisar Malik.
Formerly pursued extensively due to their size, valuable furs and meat, Himalayan brown bears are now mostly chased from their habitat by human activities such as logging, mining, and agriculture. According to the animal rights group WWF, the brown bear population now occupies just 2% of its former range. The organisation also denounces the continuous poaching for its fur, claws and internal organs for the lucrative medicine trade.
After animal welfare groups raised the alarm, various conservation programs have been launched to try and preserve the Himalayan brown bears and their habitat, and prevent them from joining a long list of extinct species.