Factors affecting the quantity of social interactions and aggression in captive group housed Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus)

Lianne Ottewell


This study observed a group of Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus) in a captive
environment that differs greatly to standard zoological institutions. Rather than being housed alone or with one other, as is typical in captivity, two large groups of bears consisting of 24 individuals were observed in two different enclosures. Any instance of social behaviour was noted down, both positive and negative, to determine the extent to which social relationships form and whether these animals have the capacity to live in large groups, regardless of their supposed solitary nature. The results indicated that the duration of social interactions were longer in the smaller group of bears but there was a higher number of instigators in the larger group. Generalised Linear Model analysis showed that interactions, both positive and negative, occurred less in the mornings, particularly during feeding time while an increase in aggression was noted generally prior to afternoon feeding (P = 0.001). Female-female aggression was much more prominent than between males or males and females. It appears that despite being defined as solitary, this species benefits greatly from social interaction with others of its kind when housed in captivity.

Keywords: social behaviour; Asiatic black bear; aggression; captivity; interaction

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