A biological mystery, the Atlas Bear was the only species of bear known to live in Africa. Inhabiting the Maghreb Atlas Mountains, which spans Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, little is known about this mysterious creature’s life. What we do know is that this species of bear had arrived on the continent sometime around the last ice age. The Atlas bear was known by the Romans, who according to historical reports, captured large numbers of Atlas bears to fight in their gladiator arenas against professional hunters, criminals or other animals. There are even depictions of Atlas bears on Roman mosaics. When Rome fell, the bears became somewhat forgotten about until Europe returned to Africa in the 1800’s. British troops have been documented stumbling upon the bears during exploration of the region. In the 1830’s the king of Morocco had at least one Atlas bear living in captivity on his property as well as supplying the Zoological garden of Marseille a bear as well. Although the bear was kept in zoo’s across Europe in the mid 19th century, no skeleton or pelt was ever saved. The last bear has said to been hunted in 1870 and has been listed extinct ever since. All that is known about the bear’s appearance is that it was smaller than black bears with shaggy hair and a shorter snout and claws than any living bear.
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