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“Bear” your brightest grin knowing that everyCocofloss 2-Piece Spectacled Bear Ornament Set includes a $2 donation to Spectacled Bear Conservation. Read on to get cuddly with this South American species and find out how to help protect them.
In the famous children’s books and movies, Paddington Bear ambles through life, fueled by charm, friendship, and marmalade. Its real-life inspiration, the spectacled bear of South America, needs our attention and adoration just as much as the walking, talking teddy. The only ursine species in South America, the spectacled bear, aka the Andean bear, faces “vulnerable” status by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Its population is steadily declining.
But here’s the thing: The spectacled bear, unlike the beloved hat-wearing character, is notoriously shy. It’s rarely seen — part of why this critter is so hard to study and protect. The more we know about this bashful bear, the more we can help conserve its habitat and raise a roar for its needs.
Named for its stylish facial markings that resemble eyeglasses, the spectacled bear usually roams the lush cloud forests along the slopes of the Andes Mountains in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Here are a few more facts about this endearingly reclusive creature.
Only a third of the size of grizzlies, Andean bears are one of the most diminutive members of the family Ursidae. Males weigh up to 340 pounds, while females tend to stay under 180 pounds.
Unless it’s mating season, from April to June, spectacled bears prefer a solitary life.
After breeding, female spectacled bears are able to delay development of the embryo until food is readily available. Once born, the one or two cute cubs will tag along with their mama — sometimes riding piggyback — for up to eight months.
Spectacled bears will sit in a tree for days, waiting for fruit to ripen. In Peru, the bears survive half the year almost entirely on a single food source: sapote, also called the “chupa-chupa.” This sweet, stringy fruit grows at the base of the mountains, near farms that often destroy wild vegetation in favor of commercial crops or for firewood.
The Andean bear’s diet is 95% vegetarian and includes cactus, bamboo, and bromeliads; however, supplemental snacks of insects, birds, and rodents make them South America’s largest land-dwelling carnivores. Marmalade is not on the menu.
With longer legs in the front than back, the spectacled bear is a born tree climber. Up high, they can find food other animals might miss. The bears will sometimes build platforms or nests in the trees.
Spectacled bears seem to use vocal communication more than any other bear except the giant panda. They purr, coo, and screech. Mother bears are especially “talkative” with their cubs.
Since spectacled bears have such a large habitat range, protecting them helps protect multiple other species, including mountain tapir, puma, ocelot, and jaguarundi. This makes them an “umbrella species.” Maybe those Paddington Bear rain boots are a good idea after all!
The Andean bear’s greatest threat is habitat loss, along with conflicts with landowners and poaching of body parts for traditional medicine. This shy critter needs a conservation cheerleader.That’s exactly what it found in Spectacled Bear Conservation (SBC), a Peru-based nonprofit. This organization collaborates with local communities to protect the bears’ shrinking habitat and also conducts scientific research to better understand and protect these mysterious animals. Dig into a few more clawsome facts about this organization’s work:
🐻 SBC discovered a population of more than 65 bears in the low-elevation dry forest, providing a unique opportunity to observe these bears in the wild and identify their habitat needs. The open landscape and arid climate in the dry forest provide ideal research conditions because the bears are highly visible and bear signs, like scat and tree markings, are well-preserved.
🐻SBC’s data points from GPS-collared spectacled bears helped to determine the extent of critically endangered dry-forest habitat used by the bears. This information supported the creation of the Archaeological and Ecological Park of Batán Grande, which preserves 34,000 acres of critically endangered dry-forest habitat and widens a wildlife corridor with another protected area.
🐻 SBC collaborated with the San Diego Zoo to develop a locally-relevant school curriculum that builds ecological literacy and cultural knowledge. They also deliver presentations on environmental awareness and their research findings on the local ecosystem. More than 1,000 children have participated in their conservation-based education, and they have reached over 6,000 adults through conservation outreach.
🐻 SBC’s Forest Guardian Program empowers local women to earn a livelihood through the art of dry-wool needle felting. The women craft handmade felt decorations to sell, which supports them with a fair, competitive, and stable income. You can buy one of their adorable fuzzy owls, elves, or spectacled bears for Christmas!
This holiday season, give the gift of a grrreat-looking grin and help spectacled bears with the Cocofloss 2-piece Spectacled Bear Ornament, which includes a $2 donation to SBC. To further support their important work,visit sbc-peru.org or wildnet.org, or purchase a cute felt handicraft from their online shop.