| Spectacled Bear © Ichishima
| Recent sighting © Jocotoco
| Volcan Antisana © Jocotoco
October 7, 2014
Ecuador’s Antisanilla Reserve is the confirmed refuge of South America’s only bear species, the Spectacled Bear.
Manual Cuichan, a park guard employed by Rainforest Trust’s Ecuadorian conservation partner Jocotoco, spotted a Spectacled Bear in the new Antisanilla reserve two weeks ago.
“This marks the second time Spectacled Bears have been spotted in the reserve this year. And it’s wonderful news since it’s clear that the bears are now using the reserve as a real refuge,” said Francisco Sornoza, Conservation Director for Jocotoco.
The total population of the Spectacled Bear, a threatened species, is expected to decline by more than 30% in the next thirty years. These small- to mid-sized mammals are the only surviving relative of the Giant Short-faced Bear, a species that went extinct in the Late Pleistocene.
Although typically found in Andean cloud forests, the Spectacled Bear is an extremely versatile species that can also survive in alpine areas, known as páramo, and deserts.
Primary threats to Spectacled Bears stem from poaching and habitat loss. Each year the species’ habitat shrinks by an estimated 2-4% due to agricultural expansion, road construction, and other development projects.
The 6,100-acre Antisanilla Reserve was created earlier this year with support from Rainforest Trust, the Amphibian Survival Alliance, the Andrew Sabin Foundation and other conservation organizations working in collaboration with Ecuadorian partner Fundación Jocotoco.
“One of the iconic mammals of the Andes, the endangered Spectacled Bear has always been relatively rare, and now it is much persecuted almost throughout its range for alleged cattle depredations,” said Dr. Robert S. Ridgely, President of Rainforest Trust.
“I knew that Spectacled Bears used to occur at Antisanilla and I hoped maybe one might wander in,” Ridgely added. “But never did I think that, hardly six months after Antisanilla’s purchase, two bears would have already been sighted on the páramo!”
The Antisanilla Reserve was established primarily to protect Andean Condors, which breed and nest in its rocky canyons. Only 50 Condors are believed to remain in Ecuador and the majority live in the reserve.
Earlier this year a four-day amphibian survey in Ecuador’s new Antisanilla Reserve resulted in a new register of the San Lucas Marsupial Frog (Gastrotheca pseustes). The 270,000-acre Antisana Reserve, which is contiguous to the Antisanilla Reserve, is recognized as an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site based on the occurrence of extremely endangered amphibians.