2014 – San Diego Zoo – Bear With Me
Image by Ted’s photos – For Me & You
The Zoo is currently home to male Andean bear Turbo. He was born in 2010 and arrived in 2013 from a zoo in Germany.
The Andean bear of South America is also known as the spectacled bear for the rings of white or light fur around its eyes, which can look like eyeglasses (or spectacles) against the rest of the bear’s black or dark brown fur. These markings often extend down the chest, giving each bear a unique appearance and helping researchers identify each bear by its "mug shot"! The markings also give the bear its scientific name: Tremarctos ornatus, or decorated bear.
As a mid-sized bear species, Andean bears are between four and six feet long and stand 2 to 3 feet at the shoulder. Males are 30 to 50 percent larger than the females.
Normally diurnal, very little is known about these bears in the wild, as they are shy and tend to avoid humans, making them hard to find for researchers to study! The bears are native to the Andean countries from Venezuela to Bolivia, living in forests, grasslands, and scrublands.
Andean bears are true arboreal bears, using their long, sharp front claws to climb and forage for food. They build leafy platforms in the trees, both in the wild and in zoos, which they may use to feed and sleep. Because of their tropical native climate, Andean bears do not hibernate and are active year-round. Their biggest threats come from humans, directly or indirectly.
Like too many animal species, wild Andean bears are vulnerable to extinction. The main risks to the bears are poaching, conflict between bears and humans when humans believe that the bears are a threat to their crops or livestock, and habitat loss. No one knows how many of these bears remain, but Andean bear habitat is being lost at a rate of approximately two to four percent per year, destroyed for mining operations, farming, and lumber; this loss is not slowing down.
The construction of new roads fragments bear habitat as well. As their habitat shrinks, bears may stray onto farmland, feeding on the crops that replaced their natural diet. Hunted in the past for their meat, fat, and body parts, Andean bears are now protected by international trade laws.
A Species Survival Plan through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is in place for this bear species, and San Diego Zoo Global has an Andean Bear Conservation Program. Its goal is to help increase scientific knowledge about these bears to advance their conservation, to train and mentor Peruvian conservationists, and to promote an understanding that the bears are integral parts of a healthy ecosystem essential for all and worthy of conservation.
One of the flagship species of national parks in the Andes, the Andean bear is an animal that people recognize easily and is used as the symbol of the parks. Local people in bear habitats are being educated about the benefits of preserving habitat for the bears for tourism, for the protection of water sources, and for the natural heritage of future generations.
San Diego Zoo works in partnership with the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society. This nonprofit organization has been working in the dry forests of northwestern Peru since 2006, building strong relationships with the local communities, and together we’re making incredible discoveries about bear biology. For example, we now believe that survival of the bear population in the dry forest of northwest Peru depends on the fruit of the sapote tree. It is apparent that it is necessary to conserve the sapote tree, which is critically endangered in Peru, and other natural resources for the benefit of the bears and all the other wildlife that share their special part of the world.
– See more at: animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/andean-spectacled-bear#st…