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Wildlife Wednesday: Spectacled Bear

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Wildlife Wednesday: Spectacled Bear

Break out the red gumboots and marmalade! On this Wildlife Wednesday, we’re learning about darkest Peru’s ursine resident, the spectacled bear.

Since they always wear glasses and are incredibly shy, some people might be led to believe that these bears don’t like the paw-parazzi too much—and these people would be right. In fact, spectacled bears are so camera-shy that several have been caught trying to dismantle camera traps!

So, rather than bothering them with flash photography, let’s stay home and learn about spectacled bears on this Wildlife Wednesday, instead.

Habitat

These far-sighted foragers can be found in a variety of different habitats—from deserts to forests and high-altitude grasslands—in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. They prefer wetter climates to drier ones, though.

Trivia

  • If you’ve ever wondered what a real-life version of Paddington Bear would look like, then look no further. Spectacled bears are South America’s only bear species and, since the beloved gumboot-wearing bear is from “darkest Peru,” the evidence speaks for itself.
  • This would explain Paddington’s love of marmalade, since spectacled bears eat mostly fruit, berries, honey, tree bark, and even cacti. Only occasionally will they munch on birds and other meats.
  • It would also explain why we see Paddington out and about during London’s cold winters—unlike most bears that we’re familiar with, spectacled bears don’t hibernate!
  • Looking to build a tree fort? Then hire one of these timid tree-lovers. Spectacled bears are known for spending hours in trees, and will even make platforms out of sticks to make themselves more comfortable.

Why are they threatened?

Poaching is one threat to the bears; their gallbladder is valuable in traditional medicine and can sell at about US$150, or about five months’ wages for the average citizen of Ecuador. Maize farmers also see them as pests, as the bears will occasionally make a meal out of maize crops, and will shoot at them to protect their crops.

Orhwe major threats include deforestation to use timber for heating and cooking, the construction of roads and illegal crops, and the development of mining or petroleum facilities.

However, there is protection out there for these short-sighted shade seekers. A 1998 report found that more than 20 percent of the bears’ range is found in 58 wildlife reserves and sanctuaries, legally protecting the bears in those areas. To make things more promising, several new reserves have been established since that time, and many of the existing areas have been expanded.

One such area is Madidi National Park in Bolivia, a 19,000 square kilometre park filled with a variety of habitats—from tropical forests to snowy mountain tops—and home to more than 12,000 plant species, 200 animals (including Paddington’s aunt), and 11 percent of the world’s birds.

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