The Spectacled bear survival teeters on the edge of the abyss

The spectacled bear is primarily threatened by poaching and habitat loss

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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The Spectacled bear survival teeters on the edge of the abyss

The Spectacled bear lives in forests in the foothills of the Andes, up to an altitude of 3000 m in western Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, western Bolivia, the northwestern tip of Argentina and possibly also Panama. Although usually limited to living in forest areas, it sometimes ventures into the highest clearings or even in the plains, savannahs and scrubs at low altitudes.

The spectacled bear is primarily threatened by poaching and habitat loss. The poaching of these animals has several reasons, from sport hunting, to the trade of exotic animals, religious or magical beliefs, trade in natural products and the mere conflict with man for the territory.

The most serious problem for the species is extensive logging and agriculture, which has led to habitat loss for the largely tree-dependent bears. Today, only 5% of its original Andean rainforest habitat remains. The shortage of natural food sources could push bear raids on crops and livestock, increasing the conflict with humans which usually results in the culling of individuals.

The impacts of climate change on bear habitat and food sources are not fully understood yet, but could have a potential negative impact in the near future.

The Spectacled bear survival teeters on the edge of the abyss

National governments, NGOs and rural communities have made several commitments for the conservation of this species throughout its range.

Conservation actions in Venezuela date back to the early 1990s and were mainly focused on environmental education at various levels and on the creation of protected areas. The effort of several organizations has resulted in widespread recognition of the spectacled bear in Venezuelan society, raising it as an emblematic species of conservation efforts in the country, and the establishment of a ten-year action plan.

The IUCN has recommended the following actions for the conservation of spectacled bears: expansion and implementation of protected areas, increased species-level research and monitoring of movements and threats, more concerted management of existing conservation areas, bear management programs involving local residents and public education regarding spectacled bears, especially the conservation benefits of the species due to its effect on natural resources.