Take a Glimpse at South America's Last Surviving Native Bear Species

Caitlin Schneider

When envisioning the mountains and forests of Peru, you may picture bears of all ilk scampering around the wilds. However, there is only one surviving species endemic to the continent: the Andean bear.

Also known as the spectacled bear or Tremarctos ornatus, these ursines—known for the lighter hair around their eyes—are in trouble, and initiatives like the Inkaterra Andean Bear Sanctuary in Machu Picchu, Peru, are serving to help protect the species. In the National Geographic video above, biologist Carmen Soto says there are believed to be anywhere between 8000 and 16,000 Andean bears left, though (as you might be able to guess based on that huge range) the numbers are largely speculative.

Through conservation, workshops, and education, Soto, along with founder José Koechlin and others, is hoping to safeguard the bears. In doing so, they seek to preserve the forests as a whole, as the bears serve as important players in its ecosystems. As part of the effort, the team is also hoping to increase associations of the spectacled bear with Machu Picchu, the Incas, and the history and mythology surrounding them.

Banner image via Greg Hume, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]