This past weekend I was able to volunteer at the Wildlife Conservation Network Expo up in San Francisco. The Network helps independent wildlife conservationists by providing the funds and tools they need in order to succeed. There are currently 17 partners receiving this support, including the Spectacled Bear Conservation (SBC) of Peru, which I volunteered for. This post is really a shout out to that organization, the wonderful family that keeps it going, and why you should care about this species of bear.
The spectacled bear, also known as the Andean bear, is the only bear species you will find in South America. Unfortunately, it faces habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and poaching. They are the second largest of the terrestrial mammals in South America, the other being a Jaguar. These bears are arboreal, meaning they climb trees and large rocky cliffs. The most important food for them is the sapote tree, which is a sweet fruit with a texture similar to the avocado (my favorite).
Spectacled bears are found mostly in cloud forests throughout the Andes mountain range, making research a challenge. However, the SBC found more than 65 bears in the low elevation dry forest of northern Peru, which has allowed them an opportunity to be studied more closely. The first bear that they found was called Laura. I approve it because that is also my name! The unique pattern of facial markings on the bear gives the appearance of oversized glasses, hence the species name, and can be used to identify individuals.
Camera traps are currently helping to determine population size, habitat use, denning behavior, and foraging resources. The SBC also works with the local communities to help protect their unique ecosystem. Their research allowed a new park called El Parque Arqueologico y Ecologico de Batan Grande to be created to help protect the bears and archeological sites.
The expo booth had a lot of hand-felted goods including mini Laura bears. Local women help earn a living by making them. You can help support this organization by purchasing one of these bears or making a donation. Their future is uncertain because they are a vulnerable species and more research is desperately needed. Please help.