“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.
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.
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.