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Species spotlight: Andean bear

Andean bear cub, Pete Oxford

Rainforest Concern's Neblina cloud forest reserve in Ecuador is home to a thriving population of spectacled bears.

Andean, or ‘spectacled’ bears (aka Paddington Bear), are the only bears that live in Latin America. They are also one of the largest native mammals in Ecuador. Found in the Tropical Andes, the bear's way of life makes it one of the most important “umbrella species” in the region. Their presence determines the survival of a large number of other species. Bears are a key factor in the regeneration of ecosystems, since they play a key role in the dispersal of seeds. Seeds from over 300 plant species are eaten by Andean bears and dispersed over large distances.

Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, they are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation from unsustainable agirculture, logging and mining, as well as illegal killing by farmers to prevent damage to crops or livestock. Habitat fragmentation means that over 30% of their previous habitat is now too small for populations to survive in, and the number of bears killed is increasing.

A two year study funded by the PTES (with cameras provided by Nature Spy) at our Neblina Reserve revealed the presence of 17-18 individual adult bears with juveniles, indicating that the reserve is playing an important role as an ecological corridor in the province, providing connected habitat for this charismatic species, and strengthening the national conservation strategy. With camera traps situated across the Neblina Reserve, we are able to monitor the number of spectacled bears and gain a unique insight into their population.

90% of Ecuador's cloud forests have already been lost. It is therefore vital that we preserve this rare and vital habitat before it's too late. We are committed to expanding the Neblina reserve to further extend the ecological corridor between protected reserves to the north and south, to reduce habitat fragmentation, and allow the migration of the spectacled bear and other threatened species.

Spectacled bears mother and juvenile
Andean spectacled bear Tremarctos ornatus Murray Cooper
Tremarctos ornatus 32
RC Andean Bear Tashkin small