The Andean bear project was developed by Chester Zoo in partnership with The University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and Bolivian NGO Prometa. This conservation initiative is the first of its kind in Bolivia and aims to study the population dynamics of bears and the drivers of human-bear conflict in the Andean dry forests of Bolivia. So far, the team has deployed 70 camera traps in 35 stations and has collected signs of bear presence such as tree marks, food remains and scats.
Chester Zoo Conservation Fellow Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo is currently in Bolivia studying the Andean bear and she is determined to declare the iconic species as part of Bolivia’s National Natural Heritage. The below video, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, provides an overview of the work Ximena is doing to conserve Andean bears in Bolivia:
To achieve her goal, Ximena has been working with various MPs and other politicians to pass a law, the Ajayu’s law, to protect the Andean bear and ultimately its ecosystem.
Ximena tells us more below:
It was a really interesting experience to be in front of MPs and to get the opportunity to explain why this species is so special. At the moment, this law is at the senate where it will hopefully be approved by the President early next year.
Alongside this, Ximena is working with other Bolivian conservationists and the government to develop an Andean bear and jaguar Conservation Action Plan. Ximena has also recently given a TEDx talk in Tarija; below she tells us more about the topics she covered during this talk (which was in Spanish):
“My talk was about the lessons I learnt from my life as a bear biologist but also about the role that my grandmother played in my life. She always wanted me to travel and see the world. She used to say: ‘Do not stay at home! Go out, travel, gain experiences, meet new people, learn new languages’.
“I also talked about my first encounter with an Andean bear, and how lucky I felt to see one on my very first day in the field. This bear taught me to take things with ease, to move slow, to be patient but he also taught me about resilience, adaptation, and survival.”
Ximena finished her talk by reminding the audience of the important role that the Andean bear plays in the dry forest ecosystem in Bolivia. When a fire burns in the Andean dry forest, the bears will be the ones to disperse seeds, allowing the forest to bloom again. Ximena ended her talk by giving seeds to the audience asking them to go out there and disperse the seeds and become a bear for one day.