“Andean Bear, the conflict over territory” is a film documentary about the Andean bear, an endangered and endemic species from tropical Andes. The Andean bear is one of Ecuador’s emblematic species. Its presence has been more notorious in the last decades due to the reduction of its habitat and the consequent approach to the communities. Agriculture and cattle ranching threaten their territory and we want to tell their story to contribute to the conservation of this endangered species.
In this sense, the team wants to show the reality of the Andean bear in the Metropolitan District of Quito and in the province of Pichincha, the ecology and biology, the conflict with the communities, the commitment of public and private institutions for its conservation and show the research work of Santiago Molina of this emblematic species of Ecuador which little is known, with a strong citizen science focus.
The team has five objectives with this film documentary:
– Reveal the reality of the Andean bear in the Province of Pichincha and the DMQ. The team has the need to make the consequences visible of human behavior on the environment, through all the actors and parties involved in the Metropolitan District of Quito and the different nearby ecosystems where the Andean bear lives. – To show that the conflict over the territory of the Andean bear is not only between humans and bears, but also between humans and natural resources. – To make a documentary from a scientific approach and not merely contemplative and idealized. – To propose ways of coexistence between bears and humans, through environmental education. The team believes that sensitizing the population that coexists with the bear would allow the acceptance and coexistence in the same territory. – Lastly, the team wants to encourage the protection of this emblematic species of Ecuador, through environmental education, scientific dissemination and support for the development of public policies that protect this species and favor conservation.
Evaluation of the Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) population status has been developed in Colombia by using occupancy and density estimations in highly fragmented and low-quality areas, which makes it necessary to accomplish these studies on the population in high-connectivity areas. Understanding population dynamics is essential for preserving and managing wildlife, because it provides the most direct measures to approach issues, and population trends allow identifying the most important factors for long-term species viability. A Population Viability Analysis (PVA) may help identify the most significant aspects regarding wildlife population growth, and its resulting models may be used for evaluating the effects of management strategies to identify the most effective conservation actions for a certain population or species, as well as further research needs.
This study, supported by Bears in Mind since 2023, aims to determine the Andean bear population viability at the Guacharos-Puracé Biological Conservation Corridor PNR in Southern Huila in Colombia, with the participation of local community monitoring groups.
This project, supported by Bears in Mind since 2022, aims to assess the population and conservation status of the Andean Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) in Calipuy National Reserve in the La Libertad Region of Peru, in partnership with SERNANP-RNC (National Parks Service). The area is situated at the southern-most end of the Peruvian western Andes and consists of dry montane forest and coastal desert habitat, a unique ecosystem occupied by the species with little known about its populations and their habitat use. As a result, these populations are not recognised in the IUCN’s species range. With frequent bear sightings by rangers and locals in Calipuy, the population potentially represents the most southern species population of the western Andes and one of the last links to the Central Andean populations.
By training rangers in the use of camera traps, and with the help of their local knowledge, the team from Instituto de Investigación en Ecología y Conservación (IIECCO) aims to estimate the occupancy of the Andean bear along environmental and anthropogenic gradients within the reserve as well as describe their activity patterns. This information will enable the team to understand how these bears use the unique habitat and inform management plans specifically for coastal bear populations.
In Ecuador, the Andean bear is listed as an endangered species, threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation and human-bear conflicts. Bears use private lands, where they can be killed due to conflicts with people and their cattle. As such, private landowners and local communities must be involved in bear conservation in order to connect fragmented and potentially hazardous landscapes for bears.
This Bears in Mind funded project, by researchers from the USFQ (Universidad San Francisco de Quito), focuses on the conservation of a previously unstudied population of Andean bears in the highlands of northern Ecuador where recently, in a first camera trap bear monitoring, around 25 individuals where identified, and bear-cattle conflicts, probably the principal threat to bear conservation in the territory. The project will implement different mitigation activities in farms and areas (5) that had report conflicts in the past, and also identified through a previous evaluation process about human perceptions and presence of bears in the territory. These activities will include different ways on improving cattle management, from electric fencing, to provide safe and permanent water supply for cattle, in order to reduce their movements.
The general aim of the project (2005-2006) was to generate baseline information about the genetic variation and structure of the Venezuelan Andean Bear populations to be used in the development of a conservation strategy for the species and its remaining habitat. To achieve such final goal the project has several objectives:
Determine spatial genetic patterns within and among populations (genetic variability and discontinuities);
Establish the number and distribution of distinct populations (ESUs);
Explain observed genetic patterns in relation to landscape variables (topography, habitat types, human intervention, size of habitat block, distance among blocks, etc).
The methodology was divided in three basic stages: field sampling, DNA microsatelites analysis, and within and among population genetic variation analysis and geoestatistical analysis.
The project has produced two protocols that increase the research teams’ ability to gather non-invasive hair samples in the field and increase the probability of DNA amplification success while analysing the samples in the laboratory. Moreover, the Venezuelan Government has adopted this project and the methodologies developed as its own program. The new “Monitoring of Andean bear population in the Venezuelan Andes Program” is a Ministry of Environment national Program using all the techniques and protocols developed for this project. Besides that, the techniques are being used in two additional projects that focus on the survey and monitoring of Andean bear populations using non-invasive techniques.
During a pilot project in 2012-2013, the research team used remote video cameras to study marking behavior of Andean bears near the Sumaco Biosphere reserve in Ecuador. Besides interesting preliminary results, they identified several key-research needs for the management and conservation of Andean bears.
I) The functional significance of marking behavior of Andean bears remains unclear. II) Local population density estimates are usually unknown. III) Virtually nothing is known about the spatial attributes of marking sites, habitat use related to them, and the role of their spatial distribution in human-bear conflict.
The title of the research project is:
“Marking behavior, population density estimates, and terrain use of Andean bears (Tremarctos ornatus) – generating knowledge for the conservation of a threatened umbrella species”
Here, the team proposes to investigate those three key research-needs using remote camera trapping and GPS mapping of bear sign data and travel networks in two study populations in Ecuador (Province Napo, Province Zamora Chinchipe) between 2016-2020. In addition, they aim to establish a biological sample database with Andean bear faecal and hair samples. Such databases have become extremely important for both local and large-scaled research purposes (e.g., population genetic research, stable isotope analyses, landscape genetics), and stimulate collaborations between different research groups. Advancing our general knowledge of the general ecology of Andean bears is crucial for the effective conservation and management of the species, as well as for species associated with them.
Andean Bear Conservation Ecuador
This Human-Wildlife Conflict focused project was financially supported between 2005-2007. To gain more accurate insight in the true number of bears attacking livestock, several local guides are trained and use horses to reach the villages and interview the farmers. Local guides are used in this project since they know the area and it’s people well which increases the chance of cooperation greatly. 65 local people in 17 different villages have been interviewed in total. Since the year 2000 only 83 incidents have been recorded involving cows. Half of these incidents concerns Andean bears, a third of the cows have disappeared (probably stolen) and the rest involves accidents where cows have slipped and fallen into a ravine of broken a leg in which they had to be euthanized. Bears are responsible for only half of the cow-related incidents. Fortunately farmers are not economically dependent on their cows and often only keep small herds. The total number of recorded incidents is not high and the majority involves cows that were unguarded by their herder. This makes it difficult to collect solid data on these problems.
In Venezuela the collected data is used to build the national management plan for Andean bears. The Andean bear range countries cooperate on various levels to tackle the human-bear conflict issues. It’s important to share insights and information, since the consequences of these conflicts have led to a drastic drop in population numbers in the past 30 years. In Ecuador and Colombia similar projects are being implemented.
Bear Alert is developed by Bears in Mind to keep track of the many captive bears, often living under horrible conditions, in order to help as many individuals as possible. Over time, Bears in Mind has gathered information on more than 400 of these bears. Some of them have already been rescued from their miserable existence and brought to a sanctuary or zoo where proper care and space could be offered. Other bears unfortunately died before we could we do anything. But most of them still await a better life…
The individual reports about bears will be processed into a database. Short term solutions will be considered next. In most cases Bears in Mind staff will consult with her local partner NGO and / or with the owner of the animal to give advise on husbandry, food and water. Simple enrichment methods for the cages are used such as leafy tree branches or a play object. These methods are often cheap and easy to create and make the life of the bear somewhat more pleasant. In other cases, if legally possible, bears will be confiscated and relocated to a better facility.