Teddy Bear No Longer Endangered!
We all know the rhyme, we sung it in the playground, we sung it in school and for many of us, it was a soundtrack of our childhood that went something like this:
‘If you go down to the woods today, you better go in disguise!’
Yes, it’s the Teddy Bears picnic! But who knew that the teddy bear was endangered? Hang on, what on earth has happened to place the teddy bear on the endangered species list in the first place? Had toy manufacturers stopped making the teddy bear? Had there been a mass destruction of teddy bears, with awful toy crime scenes that were littered in fluffy white stuffing? Thankfully, no and I suspect some of you have of course guessed that I am not talking about the traditional toy teddy bear, but the bear which gave its name to the famous stuffed toy. May I introduce, the Louisiana black bear.
Now, although some of you may be aware of the origin of the name ‘teddy bear’, others may not. So, how has the Louisiana black bear come to give its name to our soft cuddly toys? Well, the name teddy actually comes from President Theodore Roosevelt, Teddy being the abbreviation of Theodore (which the President apparently hated). Ok, odd in itself, but what about the bear part? Well, Theodore was quite the fan of bear hunting and on one occasion in Mississippi, when the President had failed to successfully hunt a bear, a Louisiana black bear was tied to a tree so that the president could have the privilege (not my choice of word) of shooting it. However, Roosevelt deemed this as ‘unsportsman like’ and refused to shoot the animal. This then gave birth to a cartoon of the incident, which was then transformed into a soft bear cub toy that was dubbed ‘Teddy’s bear’.
So, with the history out of the way, let’s get down to the facts. After two decades of conservation efforts, the Louisiana black bear has been removed from the Federal List of Endangered Species. The conservation efforts surrounding the bear have been classed as a success, so much so that the species no longer requires the protection that the ‘Endangered Species Act’ offers, including laws against the killing or hunting of the animals. However, despite their removal from the list, the bears will continue to be monitored and it is assumed that there will not be any immediate hunting of the animals.
Throughout the 1900s and following the story of the teddy bear, Louisiana black bears were a popular target among hunters, which put considerable pressure on their populations. In addition to this, by 1980, 80% of the bear’s habitat had been destroyed. By 1992, the extent of their decline was recognised and the Louisiana black bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act, which meant that the bears benefitted from full protection, as well as there being considerable efforts to restore their habitat. In total, it is thought that approximately 485,000 acres of forest have been restored and the population of the bear has grown from just 150 to 750. The federal government has now stated that the bear is no longer at risk of extinction and that their larger habitat ranges and the growth of breeding pair numbers will secure their future.
Although many have welcomed the delisting of the bear as a success, others in conservation groups have stated that the move is ‘premature’ and all politically motivated, with the final target being the eventual hunting of the bear. So, why have conservationists claimed it is premature? Quite simply because there are very few adequate forest corridors that connect areas of the bear’s habitat, making their habitat very fragmented and pockets of bear populations being somewhat isolated from one another.
So, conservation success or premature delisting of a still threatened species? The Federal Government has claimed that monitoring will take place for around 7 years and that hunting is definitely off the agenda for the foreseeable future. Louisiana has not held a black bear hunt since 1988 and is not likely to be considered for many years until bear numbers are significantly higher. If problems arise with the bear’s populations whilst they are still off the Endangered Species List, action will be taken to protect them once again.
For now at least, the teddy bears can enjoy their picnic.
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