Extremely rare mother bear and cub spotted in Lebanon’s east

A group of young people made a striking discovery in Lebanon’s eastern mountain range – capturing the extremely rare and native Syrian brown bear on camera.

The sighting, which hasn’t happened locally in well over 60 years, took place in the hills overlooking a village (I will not name) in the Baalbeck district on December 29, 2016.

According to Greenarea, which verified and posted the video Wednesday, the bear is a mother, and she’s walking alongside her cub. Bears usually hibernate (or more accurately torpor) during winter, which suggests: a) the sow and her cub may be running away from some sort of danger or disturbance, or b) the area is warm enough and food is abundant, which allows bears to wake up and forage.

Seeing a female bear and her cub, even if only on video, has me overwhelmed with emotion as Syrian bears are believed to be extinct in Lebanon. The only male and female bears we know of reside in a sanctuary in the Aley district. Those running it have been attempting to breed them for years without much success (more on that in an upcoming post).

The Syrian bear, or Ursus Arctos Syriacus, is native to the Middle East and the Caucasus regions; it is the smaller subspecies of the brown bear. It has made shy appearances in the past across Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, and is currently flagged red on the endangered animals list with the possibility of going extinct in the near future.

It was first discovered in Lebanon in 1828, somewhere inside Bcharreh’s Makmal Mountain forest. The last time we ever saw one was in 1958.

We NEED to protect these bears. I cannot stress that enough. Like many large mammals, the Syrian brown bear population is declining due to habitat loss, and poaching. They are a popular target for big game hunters in the Middle East and in Asia.

About 
Nadine Mazloum is an Australian born, Beirut bred multimedia journalist, editor, and blogger. She most recently worked as StepFeed's Senior Editor. Before that, she was the news editor and resident blogger for the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International [LBCI] and has held several positions with well-known media outlets both locally and internationally. Her work appears online both on LBCI and on her personal blog, NewsroomNomad©.

6 Comments

  1. Abed Ayyad

    January 12, 2017 - 1:12 pm
    Reply

    Very good news. Also, on the point of you declining to name the village: bravo, really, but in fact it’s up there on the YouTube video about 40 seconds in, in clear (Arabic surtitles). Not sure how declining to name it works when the location is given in the video.

  2. Mohamad Khawlie

    January 12, 2017 - 2:29 pm
    Reply

    Undoubtedly !!! Saving those rare, beautiful, & significant bears is a MUST.
    They constitute an almost extinct species in our Region… a sure sign of the irresponsible intervention of humans in nature, & the ultimate proof of deterioration of the mountainous Eastern Mediterranean ecosystem.
    Mohd. Khawlie

  3. Cynthia

    January 13, 2017 - 9:39 am
    Reply

    You shouldn’t even talk about it or mention it. There are so many stupid hunters in Lebanon and Syria !
    They will go straight to them

  4. katia Haddad

    January 13, 2017 - 1:13 pm
    Reply

    Hi Nadine,

    i think i saw a bear at the new road of Sheile-Harissa when they first opened it.

    the size and the color were similar, but couldn’t take any picture as the animal was running from the main road.

    I tried to search for any similar animal to bear which could be found in Lebanon, but never succeeded.

    Just for Info

  5. may

    January 13, 2017 - 10:38 pm
    Reply

    Nadine just giving you heads up the village’s name is printed in the video in arabic so now people will know about this bear and might harm it… that’ll be sad … the movie made me so happy to see it though

  6. NadineMazloum

    January 14, 2017 - 10:18 am
    Reply

    A lot of people have been asking me why I chose not to name the village where the Syrian mother bear and her cub were spotted even though it’s clearly mentioned in the video. The reason is simple:
    Obviously I did it to protect them, and yes, while it is unfortunate that the original source specifies the location, it is something I cannot control. What I can control is my text. By choosing not to name the village in question, I hope to encourage other media to do the same whether now or in future cases. We don’t always have to rip the media to shreds; sometimes by setting a better example we encourage other writers to follow suit.
    P.S: The area is super secure (as in hard to access), due to its geography and bcs of a heavy militarily presence.

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