Andean bear researcher recounts visit to indigenous conservation reserve to track species
February 21, 2017
Greetings from Peru amid the rainy season! My name is Flynn Vickowski and I am a Fulbright grantee studying the Spectacled, or Andean, bear, classified by the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable to extinction. The Spectacled bear is the only bear native to South America, is mainly herbivorous and has spectacle-like facial and chest markings that are unique to each bear. Main threats to the species include human-bear conflict (poaching), habitat fragmentation and lack of knowledge of distribution. Through the terrific help of ACA, I am working on capturing images of the bears to identify presence and habitat use in an area not previously researched. ACA aided me with establishing a connection with the indigenous Queros community of the Wachiperi tribe and the Queros welcomed me to do my research in their conservation concession located in the Amazon River Basin.
The Conservation Concession Haramba Queros Wachiperi extends over 6,975.99 hectares (~27 sq. mi, or 17,240 acres) and is situated between two of the most biodiverse protected areas in Peru, Manu National Park and Amarakaeri Communal Reserve. [ACA was a key partner in helping the indigenous community establish the concession]. Studies show bear presence in both areas thus the concession may serve as a biological corridor between the two that promotes movement and genetic flow.
Camera traps are an excellent, non-invasive way to monitor wildlife. Over the course of three field trips in the fall, I explored the concession and looked for sign of bears such as footprints, claw marks on trees, bear trails, scat, food scraps and resting platforms in trees. I deployed a total of 12 cameras in possible bear habitat. Now I need to wait for the rain to stop so I can check the data collected.
On my final fall field trip, I replaced the memory cards from cameras deployed in previous field trips and got some previews of the magnificent wildlife in the concession. Although no bears were detected in those first two months, the cameras captured some photos of puma, armadillo, tapir, birds, anteater, paca, agouti, tamandua, deer and jaguar!
Additionally, I presented at the Queros monthly meeting in December and they were very engaged to see camera trap photos of the wildlife. The Queros expressed their continued desire to support my project and to work together to promote the concession so that more researchers will come to conduct studies.
Villa Carmen was my home from August to November between field trips and I feel so lucky to have gotten to know the wonderful staff. I feel welcome every time I return. It is a stunning atmosphere tucked away in the jungle with miles of trails for observing monkeys, birds or taking a swim in the river. I am looking forward to returning in March!
Check out a full recap of Flynn’s field trip and experiences in the Amazon at her blog: https://bearfootperu.wordpress.com/