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By Víctor Alvarado Salazar
Infiltration of farmers, loggers and hunters have put it on the way to extinction.
The danger of extinction of the South American spectacled bear is not determined by the feeding factor, since it has at its disposal an abundant supply of wild fruits and vegetables, but by the destruction or "fragmentation" of its habitat.
The danger of extinction of the South American spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), also called Andean bear, is not determined by the feeding factor, since it has at its disposal an abundant supply of wild fruits and vegetables, but by the destruction or "fragmentation" of their habitat.
This means, according to field studies by Peruvian biologists Judith Figueroa Pizarro and Marcelo Stucchi Portocarrero, that their places of residence are invaded by farmers, forest extractors, hunters and other forms of human activity.
Unlike the panda bear that is limited to consuming bamboo, the spectacled bear is 90% frugivorous and vegetarian and 10% carnivorous, and prefers over all the species in its environment, the bromeliads known as "achupallas", a plant similar to the "penca" that grows epiphytes on the bark of trees and the surface of rock formations.
In the recently created Megatoni Reserved Zone, a biological corridor that joins Manu National Park with Otishi National Park, in the Vilcabamba Mountain Range, has been sighted eating wild fruits of the "moraceous", "lauráceas" and ericaceae "species.
In the dry forests of Chaparri and Laquipampa (department of Lambayeque) it virtually destroys the fruits of the cherimoya, "sirumba" or güaba, overo (cordia lutea) and all kinds of wild cacti.
His predilection extends to the "puyas", whose thorns do not prevent him from eating them; the stem of the "pasayo", an abundant tree in the dry forest, the orchid bulbs and wild canes, similar to Asian bamboo, known as "chusquia" and "neurolepis", which provide delicious juice.
It also consumes the fruits of an abundant palm tree, known as ceroxylum.sp, for which it rises to the top of the plant thanks to its climbing skills, which has allowed it to crown trees up to 30 meters high.
Tastes that kill
Sometimes he leaves the forest to ravage potato fields, sugar cane and corn, products that drive him crazy, for which he usually loses his life, because the peasants do not forgive him for the incursion and kill him in the place where they surprise him.
10% of its carnivorous diet corresponds to deer, rabbits and it is presumed that also cattle, since remains have been found in their habitat. These cattle are normally interned by their owners in the forests to feed themselves and there they are surprised by uncertain attackers.
In truth, no one has proven that the spectacled bear perpetrated these deaths, but the farmers are convinced that it is a predator and they organize hunts every time they lose a cattle in the forest.
In truth, this accusation is an exaggeration because many of the cattle are subject to fortuitous deaths by clipping or at the hands of the puma or slaughtered by cattle rustlers to appropriate their meat and commercialize it.
Figueroa and Stucchi do not squarely believe this accusation and rather accept that the spectacled bear is a scavenger, that is to say that it wastes no time consuming the remains of an animal killed by various circumstances.
Incommunicated in its habitat
The "fragmentation" or destruction of its habitat is growing and alarming, and it means that in a wide extension of the forest where it lives, spaces or clearings are formed by the action of the "grazes" that farmers make to gain land and illegal logging to appropriate. of wood.
Both the spectacled bear and the other forest mammals that previously lived at point A can no longer go to point B because between them there is an occupied or predated area. If the animal dared to cross between these two points, it would be hunted, but it will not do so because there is a different, strange and aggressive population there.
This "fragmentation" of their habitat is the order of the day at the moment in the forests of Amazonas, San Martín, Cusco, Lambayeque and Cajamarca. There are some that in the past were an example of conservation such as the Cutervo National Park, which is now an example of the opposite, that is, of destruction.
Its climber quality has made it easier for it to build its home in the middle of preferably inclined trees, between 15 and 20 meters high, consisting of a bed built from trunks and branches.
Figueroa and Stucchi located a new type of bear dwelling in the Megatoni Reserve, consisting of a quasi-cavern formed by the thick and twisted roots of the "Alzatea" tree.
Habitat "fragmented" Published in the Ecological supplement of EL PERUANO, on Friday 19 Nov. 2004.