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This photo story about the Andean Bear in Ecuador was covered in March and April 2008 by photographer Philippe Henry. (Philippe had a story about the Black Bears previously published on this site).

I thank him for authorizing me to publish this article.


The Andean bear, also known as Spectacled bear, because of the distinctive markings around its eyes, is the only bear of South America.

It's an elusive and shy species, living in the cloud forest, on the western and eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes. It also lives in the Paramo ( alpine meadows). Its habitat is ranging in elevation from 500 to 14.000 feet.

Habitat loss and poaching pose the largest threats to the Spectacled bear. Today, its habitat has been reduced by half. We consider that 2000-3000 bears still live free in a zone which extends from Venezuela to Bolivia.

 

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© Philippe Henry - Spectacled bear

In Ecuador, during the rainy season, on the highlands close to the Colombian border, the spectacled bear causes a lot of bother to the farmers whose corn is one of their main source of food.
 

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© Philippe Henry - People check their corn before the harvest
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© Philippe Henry - People check their corn before the harvest
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© Philippe Henry


The bears living in the cloud forest usually feed on fruit, on varieties of bromeliads and other plants.


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© Philippe Henry - Lanscape of forest and mountains in the Ibara province
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© Philippe Henry - Landscape of mountains and forest in the Ibara province

 

Today, they are victims of the extensive deforestation for the setting-up of farmlands.

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© Philippe Henry - Landscape of the Ibara province


 

The destruction of their habitat and thus of the necessary natural resources which they feed on, leads the bears to plunder the cultures of corn and sugar cane.

But, although they are protected by the law (* The species is classified - vulnerable- on the red list of endangered species..

It faces a major risk of extinction in the medium-term) , many of them are every year shot by the farmers.

The Ecuadorian government pays no financial compensation to the farmers for the loss of their corn.


 

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© Philippe Henry - A farmer shows the bear paws of a bear he shot a few months ago.

In march and april 2008, I lived, during several weeks, in an isolated village of the Ibara province.

My friend, Armando Castellanos, director of the Andean Bear Conservation Project in Ecuador, had warned me that a female bear, named Fiona, has been spotted in the corn fields area.

It had been captured one year previously and provided with the radio collar which allowed to locate it.

This was a challenge because this bear species is certainly the wildest and the most difficult to photograph. Such a photo would allow me to illustrate the part of my story dedicated to the relationship between the farmers and the bears.

It could also allow Armando Castellanos to prove that the damages are well caused by bears and so to obtain possibly a grant to indemnify the farmers.

As the bear stayed in the area, I decided to set up some hides near the corn fields without knowing too much the one it was going to choose to come feeding, nor if it was going to decide to come...

Finally, with the use of radio tracking equipment - antenna and receiver - we were able to locate it exactly and thus, to wait for it in the hide, settled near the corn field where it came to feed.

I was able to take the first photos of a spectacled bear with a corn ear in the mouth.

 

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© Philippe Henry - Bear eating a corn ear


During this trip, I also photographed other free spectacled bears in their natural environment.
I am going to go back to Ecuador during summer 2008 to put an  end to my report


 
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© Philippe Henry - Wild spectacled bear
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© Philippe Henry - Wild spectacled bear

VOLUNTEERING IN ECUADOR

The Andean Bear Project relies exclusively on the money received by its volunteers to cover the bear necessities such as radio, GPS collars, rehabilitation ........

The director of the Andean Bear Conservation Project in Ecuador is in search of volunteers. They have to come to the headquarters in the village of Pucara where they will be trained to use radio telemetry equpment. Then, they will help to locate the bears in the cloud forest.

They will also do other field work as to set traps to capture the bears...At term, the collected information will allow to know more about the movements and the behaviour of the bears.

For any information, its necessary to go on the Web site of the organization : http://www.andeanbear.org and visit the column: Volunteering. It's well indicated how to get in touch with the organizers by e-mail. All the informations will be sent to the future volunteers by e-mail. The Web site is only in English. The volunteers have to pay the amount of 500 US dollars for each month - approximatly 300 Euros - to participate in the project.

For this moderate sum, they are supplied with comfortable accommodation as well as the food. They are accommodated in a village at 2000m in the mountains of the Ibara province.

Naturally, they have to pay for their plane ticket to Ecuador as well as approximately 10 dollars to go from the city of Quito, to the village where they will live.


Creation date : 28/05/2008 : 19:00
Last update : 01/08/2015 : 19:52
Category : PHOTOGRAPHERS - Philippe HENRY, spécialist of bears ( March 2008-Updating décember 2009 )

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