Saving the Spectacled Bear at Yanacocha Reserve, Ecuador

The World Land Trust (WLT) mission is to protect and sustainably manage natural ecosystems of the world to conserve their biodiversity. Focussing on threatened habitats and endangered species, WLT works with local conservation partners who protect the land that is saved and engage support and commitment from the people who live there.


Immortalised in the children’s book A Bear Called Paddington, the Spectacled Bear is native to South America. But, in contrast to heart-warming tales of Paddington, the Spectacled Bear’s real story is less happy. Its forest home in the tropical Andes is rapidly disappearing through deforestation, expanding agriculture and un-controlled fires. In Ecuador, there are fewer than 2,000 Spectacled Bears and these animals rely on nature reserves in the mountains. The conservation of this vulnerable species is at the heart of a project at Yanacocha Reserve where, 20km from Quito, highland paramó and polylepis forest provide ideal habitat for bears. These forests also protect other threatened species, including the Critically Endangered Black-breasted Puffleg hummingbird. Developed by Fundación Jocotoco, this project will implement a fire prevention strategy to reduce habitat loss, use camera traps to monitor bears and establish an education programme to highlight the urgent need to save the Spectacled Bear. This project will:
– install 10 camera traps in the reserve to monitor spectacled bear movements
– develop a fire prevention programme to prevent habitat degradation
– organise fire prevention and mitigation training for staff and local volunteers and install water tanks in the reserve

The Update

The following progress has been made:
– The camera traps have been purchased and 3 rangers have undergone training into how to set them up and use them;
– A fire contingency plan is being developed, identifying the most vulnerable areas of the reserve, strengthening the organisation’s ability to act, introducing an early warning system and training personnel in forecasting, control, extinction and mitigation as well as awareness raising workshops for local communities;
– Water tanks that were to have been installed as part of the project have been reconsidered and the development of an effective fire mitigation plan for Yanacocha and joining the Fire Fighting Integrated System of Quito has been agreed as a more efficient and secure tactic for fighting fires.  Funds freed up from this alteration will be spent on constructing firebreaks as well as purchasing adequate fire fighting equipment and clothing;
– The interpretation centre was opened in June 2016 and contains a wealth of information about Andean bears and their habitats;
– Development of the guided trail around the interpretation centre is underway, as is the writing of an educational kit about the bear for children to be used on school visits; and
– Work has also started on the outside education areas which also includes the planting of species which are a favoured food source for the bears both around the centre and in the paramo areas of the reserve.

Final update:

The camera traps are in situ and gathering information. Four spectacled bears have been identified by the traps, two of whom are new individuals for the reserve. Other species recorded by the cameras include, amongst others: puma, Andean fox, Andean guan, little red brocket deer, tawny antpitta.

Fire fighting training was successfully completed and involved 37 people, including forest guards and locals. A fire prevention plan has been developed and has led to the implementation of fire mitigation plans in several reserves in the area.

The interpretation centre opened in 2016 and displays information boards funded through this project. The centre receives over 100 visitors per week.

In addition, environmental teaching guides, bear kits for children, and an environmental education trail, with numerous colourful information boards have been completed and are successfully engaging local children. As part of this trail, the reserve has also started reforestation with food sources favoured by the spectacled bear.

Great successes reported and we wish the project all the best for the future!


Image: Spectacled Bear. Image credit: Nigel Simpson