Colombia’s vulnerable Andean bears in spotlight for Conservation Day

Oso Anteojos
Oso Anteojos

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]an’t hardly bear how much you love bears? Go ahead and start celebrating. Sunday marks International Day for Bear Conservation, an important moment for the fuzzy mammals around the world, and a particularly poignant day in Colombia.

The country is home to the Andean bear, also known as the spectacled bear or oso anteojos, South America’s only native bear species and one that is threatened by loss of habitat in the high mountains of Colombia.

In just the past few weeks, two Andean bears were killed in the wild, making this Day for Bear Conservation a particularly critical one.

To increase public awareness, Colombia’s National Parks agency lit up social media Sunday with the hashtag #PonteLosAnteojosPorLaVida (#PutOnEyeglassesForLife), encouraging people to upload photos of themselves making eyeglasses with their hands.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for more Colombians to reflect on the importance of Andean bears,” said Julia Miranda, director of national parks for Colombia. “Those of us citizens who live in cities can focus on their value and importance, and those who live near their habitat can learn to live with them.”

The lighthearted campaign plays off of a coloring pattern characteristic of Andean bears that makes them look like they are wearing glasses — hence their colloquial name.

But the plight of bears around the world is hardly a laughing matter. Only eight species of bear currently exist and six of them are either endangered or vulnerable.

Spectacled bears are among the largest land animals on the continent and prefer to live in wet mountain forests, where they survive on an almost entirely vegetarian diet. Their range stretches from northern Venezuela to the mountains of Bolivia.

According to Colombia’s national parks service, logging, soil degradation and climate change have reduced the bears’ habitat by 30 percent over the last three decades.


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