Wild creatures are abundant in Africa. The African plains are home to lions, rhinoceros, hippos, and zebras. On top of that, the continent is home to millions of insects and birds. Why aren’t there any bears in Africa? Bears are a omnivores that have adapted to forests, mountains and deserts so on the face of it, their absence from Africa seems surprising.
With non-retractable claws, a keen sense of smell, and enormous bulk, a bear appears to be capable of conquering numerous geographical areas. If that’s the case, why are there no African bears? I hope this article doesn’t make you growl at me or with each other.
Perhaps even large bears would be no match for a pride of lions or a cackle of persistent hyenas, though they’d undoubtedly thrive in rainforests like the Congo and undoubtedly thrive in Nigeria’s rainforests if humans wouldn’t hunt them.
Perhaps bears exclusion from Africa is nature’s way of loving variety. Indeed, tourists from all over the world flock to Africa in the expectation of viewing animal species native to Africa that are not found anyplace else on the planet such as the African elephant, which happens to be the world’s largest mammal. Cheetahs, wild dogs, lions, and hippopotamuses are all indigenous to Africa.
In this sense, it’s possible to argue that Africa contains a sufficient number of amazing animals and that the rest of the world, too, deserves a chance to host great mammals. This notion is a pleasant bed time story but the truth is there were bears in Africa until the 19th century.
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Atlas Bears in Africa
The Atlas bear was a brown bear subspecies. These bears used to wander the northern areas of Africa until the late 19th century. In the past, you might have seen a bear exploring the Atlas Mountain range from Morocco to Libya.
The Atlas bear’s origins are uncertain; one genetic analysis found no ties to any brown bears, but it did have weak but significant mtDNA ties to the polar bear. Polar bears appear in Paleolithic cave paintings in Andalusia, Spain, where a polar bear may swim to the Atlas Mountains in just a few minutes.
The Atlas bear was Africa’s sole native bear that made it to the modern era. Now extinct, the Atlas bear’s muzzle lacked a white mark and was brownish black in color. The underbelly fur was a fiery orange color.
Decline of the Atlas Bear
The decline of the Atlas bear was mostly accelerated by the Roman Empire. Romans would catch bears and employ them in arenas, throughout Europe and bears were largely hunted for sport.
Crowd, adulated, gladiators were willing to combat lions, tigers, and bears in great numbers. Unfortunately, human activity, over hunting, and the widespread use of guns all contributed to the Atlas bear’s extinction.
The Giant African Bear of the Miocene Period
Agriotherium Africanum, a bear that roamed Africa, at about 900 kg in weight and 8.8 feet (2.7 m) tall was more than twice the weight of today’s largest bears. Imagine a world where bears weighing nearly a ton roamed the African plains.
Scientists uncovered ancient bones of bears in Africa’s Sub-Saharan regions, Ethiopia, and South Africa. South Africa and Ethiopia are in Sub-Saharan Africa. These bear species existed millions of years ago and are therefore very different from the bears we are familiar with now.
What we Know About Agriotherium Africanum
Bear evolution reveals that Agriotherium Africanum were formidable combatants with the largest bite of any bear ever known. Because of their sheer size, theories suggest the bears were able to bully other animals off carrion, such as bovines, horses, camelids, and rhinoceroses.
However, with omnivore habits this African bear was thought to be at home eating fruit and plants. Agriotherium is believed to have become extinct just over 2.6 million years ago at the end of the Pliocene period.
Competition with a growth in numbers of meat eaters and climate change is thought to have made the giant bear extinct. Theories do suggest the exclusion of bears from Africa is a result of climate change and natural selection.
Fantastic Facts About Bears
- There are just eight species of bears in the world, found in all corners of the globe.
- Bears can be found in up to 60 nations around the world, covering North America, Europe, and Asia. The sun bear and spectacled bear are the exceptions to the rule. The sun bear lives below the equator in Asia, as its name suggests. The spectacled bear, on the other hand, is found in portions of South America.
- Brown bears are the most common bear species. The brown bear, sometimes known as a grizzly bear, may be found over much of North America.
- The IUCN lists the common brown bear as the only bear species that is not endangered.
- Grizzly bears have been known to hide their tracks to avoid being caught by hunters.
Q & A About Bears in Africa
What caused the Atlas bear to become extinct?
The Atlas bear became extinct shortly after the invention of modern guns. Over hunting may have had a role in their extinction. Pressure from zoo collectors, separating the animals from one another and preventing them from reproducing and flourishing.
When was the Atlas Bear discovered?
The Atlas Bear, often known as the African Bear, is the only bear in the Ursinae family that is native to Africa. Crowther, an English military commander, was the first to bring the Atlas Bear to the public’s attention through his observations in 1840 since Roman times, marking the first time the scientific community recognized its existence.
When was the Atlas bear extinct?
The Atlas bear was made extinct at the end of the 19th century.
Was the Atlas bear more feared than a lion in Roman times?
Observers of the Roman games claim the Atlas bear was no match for a lion.