The Spectacled bear could easily become Ecuador’s panda. A proud and noble creature, whose adorable cubs would have no problem inspiring stuffed animal makers across the first world —Paddington is actually supposed to be a Spectacled Bear!— this silent forest denizen strictly linked to the endangered habitats on which it so carefuly treads, is also, except for the occasional rodent, an inveterate vegetarian!
“To see a mother bear and her cubs…” says Santiago Molina, biologist, “changed my life forever”. Santiago has since shed blood, sweat and tears in an effort to protect the Spectacled Bear. His project provides the basis for the creation of a natural corridor that would serve as a buffer against the major challenges it faces: an increasingly fragmented habitat, a growing agricultural frontier, logging, hunting, poaching and the fact that people are just unaware of the importance and positive impact bears have on the ecosystem at large.
The iconic Andean bear is shy and elusive. The project therefore began by locating camera traps in an area of over 15,000 hectares to photograph the bear in its home territory, in order to obtain data regarding gender, habits… even to record individuals. Some 24 bears have been recorded.
Organizations like the Quito Municipality’s Environment Secretariat, together with the Environmental Fund and the Center for Transfer of Techonology of Quito’s San Francisco University, have since joined forces, under the direction of Santiago and his team, in their efforts at protecting the species. What matters, of course, in these kinds of projects is that forests are protected, which in the end will strengthen the efforts of pioneering reserves such as the Bosque Protector Mindo Nambillo or Maquipucuna.