World's Smallest Bear Faces Extinction

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"The American black bear is actually doing quite well," said Garshelis, adding that its population is increasing in most parts of Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

There are an estimated 900,000 American black bears in the three countries, more than double the number of all the other bear species combined, according to IUCN.

The brown bear is well protected in North America and Europe and therefore able to expand in certain areas, he said. But in some countries of South Asia, including Pakistan, India, and Nepal, there are only tiny numbers of brown bears left, he added.

China's giant panda, of which fewer than 3,000 are estimated to survive, remains in the category of endangered species despite huge Chinese efforts to conserve it, Garshelis said.

"It would be unwise to assume that, in less than ten years under the new habitat improvement policies in China, (the) panda population could have dramatically increased," he said.

Australia's koala bear, which despite its name is not a bear but a marsupial, is considered "near threatened."

The reassessment of the sun bear's situation will be reflected in IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species, a comprehensive inventory of some 41,000 species and subspecies compiled by a network of experts around the globe.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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