If you thought Machu Picchu was all about history and culture, think again. A wildlife survey revealed that the historical site is also home to the Andean bear. The bear is biologically important and international organizations have been working very hard to conserve the species. The study was undertaken by SERNANP (Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas por el Estado) and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society). It was known that the area was home to bears it was not known to what extent the bears had claimed the territory as their own.
What are Andean bears and why are they vulnerable?
Andean bears are also known as ‘spectacled bears’ for their unique facial features which remind one of a bear wearing glasses. The Andean bear has been classified as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN. This vulnerability stems from the fact that the Andean bear’s habitat has been destroyed. This destruction has partly occurred due to farming, and partly due to deforestation. There are also several traditional beliefs which have led humans to kill Andean bears, such as their appearance being liked to disappearances of women and children.
The Chinese medicine market is also responsible for humans killing Andean bears, whose body parts fetch a lot of money in the international market. While Andean bears eat meat, they mostly subsist on plants, fruits, nuts, and other produce fallen from the trees. These bears are also known to eat honey, cultivated produce such as corn and sugarcane. When they hunt, they usually hunt for small animals such as deer, llama, cattle and rabbits. Most Andean bears do not venture to kill cattle and may feed on dead cattle. However, farmers often mistake them to have killed cattle and shoot them dead.
What did the survey reveal?
The survey helped researchers to understand that bears live extensively in and around Machu Picchu site. Andean bears live in moist montane forests from Venezuela to Bolivia. They also live in the grasslands of the Andes. The Andean bear is South America’s only native bear species. As a number of farmers raise cattle in the region, the researchers have determined that the presence of cattle pose a threat to the bears too.
However, it is not clear if these bears will pose any problem to human beings, though the opposite is quite true. In regions where cattle abound, bears often stray from their solitary hideouts and venture out in the open, leading to attacks by human beings. Most Andean bear have died this way, after being attacked by human beings trying to protect their cattle.
All images from Wikipedia