Conservation news

The only species of bear in South America: the spectacled bear | Candid Animal Cam

  • Every two weeks, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting the only species of bear in South America: the spectacled bear.

This is the second part of a two-part series. Watch part I discussing the species’ characteristics and behavior.

The spectacled bear lives in only 3% of South America, between Bolivia and Venezuela, but shares habitat with at least 76% of mammal species in the subcontinent. That is why it is considered an umbrella species for the conservation of biodiversity. An umbrella species is a species whose conservation results in the indirect protection of other species that make up the ecological community of its habitat.

The camera trap footage was taken in the dry forests of northwestern Peru. In this habitat between December and March, the bears descend towards the lower areas to feed on fruits, especially sapote fruits. They play an important role in the ecosystem as seed dispersers because they excrete the seeds far from the tree where they originally ate the fruit. In the dry forest spectacled bears also rely on small pools of water which are sparsely distributed and constitute the only source of water during the dry season.

One hundred years ago the presence of the species was considered common in northwestern Peru but currently, less than 250 individuals are living in this ecosystem. The greatest threats to the species are fragmentation and habitat loss which are a consequence of illegal logging and land conversion for urban expansion and agriculture. Spectacled bears are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and although the global population of the species is small and decreasing, isolated groups are still being discovered in forest patches outside their official range. This is the case of a group of bears that was discovered earlier this year surviving in a fragile ecosystem in the Andean highlands of Bolivia. Watch the video to learn more about this species!

Special thanks to the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society-Peru for sharing their footage with us, and Renzo Piana, director of SBC-Peru, for providing the video clip about the organization’s conservation program.  

Banner photo by HumbRios via Wikimedia commons

 

Romi Castagnino is Mongabay’s bilingual writer. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @romi_castagnino