By Jeremy Hance
Scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have captured stunning images of Andean bear families taking down camera traps in Bolivia's Apolobamba National Natural Area of Integrated Management. In one series of images a mother and her two cubs bite, claw, and whack one of the cameras. However even as they destroy one camera, the bears' antics are captured by another as researchers typically set several cameras to capture different views of animals, a process that helps them identify individuals.
"Andean bears are very curious animals," explains Lilian Painter WCS Bolivia Country Director. "But they are also very strong, and the cameras are like big flashing toys. Still we were able to record important images that will allow us to better understand their distribution, abundance and behavior, and conserve these delightful bears into the future."
Andean bears (Tremarctos ornatus), also known as spectacled bears, are the only bear species found in Latin America and are sole surviving member of the short-faced bear family, which once included the world's largest bear, the giant short-faced bear that stood three meters (10.5 feet) on its hind legs. Andean bears are currently categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and faces a number of periled including deforestation, fragmentation, mining, roads, fossil fuel exploitation, and in some cases poaching.