Spectacled bear conservation effort wins international prize
After tracking the elusive animals with photo-booby traps for years, last week Manuel Zhibri finally saw his first wild Andean Spectacled Bear, in the flesh.
“I was walking one of my routes and I saw it. It was with a little one, I think it was its cub. It was very exciting, I’m so used to just seeing them in photos.”
Zhibri and another ranger patrol the Colepata region, one of the spectacled bears habitats in Ecuador. They are members of a group of ten rangers that recently received a Disney Wildlife Conservation prize for their work protecting the spectacled bear.
The Andean spectacled bear is the last remaining short-faced bear in the world, and the last surviving species of South American-native bears. They’re classified as vulnerable, threatened by hunting and habitat destruction in the highlands where they live.
"The "Corps of Community Park Guards" have been named Disney Conservation Heroes in recognition of their work to protect and conserve the endangered spectacled bear and its associated habitat, reports Fundación Cordillera Tropical. The award recognizes local citizens from around the world for their tireless efforts to save wildlife, protect habitats, and educate communities," says a news release on the Cordillera Tropical website, dated May 17, 2013.
The rangers earned the prize because of an education campaign they created for local elementary schools.
The group trained 55 elementary school teachers from the Cañar province, in Spanish and in Quichua, about the research they carry out on the unique species. Their toughest task, they say, was approaching landowners’ whose properties intersect with the bear’s habitats, to teach them about conservation.
The guides have camera traps set up throughout the Sangay National Park. They use bright objects to attract the bears into a spot, which sets off the cameras which photograph the animals from various angles. They are tracking about 20 bears in the park, and have data on their mates, burrows and feeding patterns.