Save the Spectacled Bear

  • By: Edo R
  • Target: International Wildlife Conservation Community

The spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), also known as the Andean bear or Andean short-faced bear and locally as jukumari (Aymara), ukumari (Quechua) or ukuku, is the last remaining short-faced bear. Spectacled bears are the only surviving species of bear native to South America, and the only surviving member of the subfamily Tremarctinae.

The spectacled bear population is under threat for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, still no species-level conservation efforts are known to exist for Spectacled bears. Each government has made differing commitments to conservation in this species range, with Venezuela, thanks to its relatively high level of scientific industry and relatively stable economy being the most advanced at bear conservation to Colombia, where the species and its habitats are largely unprotected. The bears are hunted by locals due to a belief they will eat livestock (although spectacled bears do not normally eat large quantities of meat). Their gall bladders are also valued in traditional Chinese medicine and can fetch a high price on the international market. Perhaps the most epidemic problem for the species is extensive logging and farming, which has led to habitat loss for the largely tree-dependent bears. As little of 5% of the original habitat in Andean cloud forest remains. As the bear's food sources have been disappearing, it relies on crops for food. So, farmers see the bears as competition and hunt them. Legislation against hunting the bears exists, but is rarely enforced. The IUCN has recommended the following courses for Spectacled bear conservation: expansion and implementation of conservation land to prevent further development, greater species level research and monitoring of trends and threats, more concerted management of current conservation areas, stewardship programs for bears which engage local residents and the education of the public regarding spectacled bears, especially the benefits of conserving the species due to its effect on natural resources.

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