May 18, 2015
Real Life Teddy Bear
- as seen by -Galo Zapata Rios @WCS Ecuador
While I was working on my dissertation field work in Cayambe-Coca National Park, in the Andean highlands of northern Ecuador, my kids, Maria-Emilia and Juan-Diego (at the time, ages 9 and 5) visited me for a few days. They decided to set up one of my spare camera traps in a plateau close to our camp. The site, located above 11,000 feet, was covered by thick brush, and there were clear signs of animal trails. It took them a long time to decide on the right place for the camera, but finally they found a good spot. A week later, I recovered the camera. It had taken just one picture, but what a picture. It was a juvenile Andean bear looking straight into the camera.
The Andean bear (or spectacled bear) is the only bear species found in South America, and the largest carnivore in northern Andean ecosystems. The distribution of the Andean bear extends from Venezuela to Argentina along the Andes. Although Andean bears are an omnivorous species, in the highlands of Cayambe-Coca National Park, they survive by consuming the hearts of terrestrial bromeliad plants, locally known as “achupallas.” The main threats to the conservation of Andean bears are habitat loss and fragmentation, and hunting as a result of human-wildlife conflict. They are considered an endangered species throughout their range.