A Major Milestone For Habitat Enhancement In Northern Peru

Justina ambled along the dusty trail through the stifling heat when she saw an unfamiliar sight. With her typical spectacled bear curiosity, she couldn’t resist investigating. Justina walked gingerly over the rocks along the pool’s edge. She dipped in one paw, then the next, and slowly waded in. She sighed with relief as she submerged her body into the cool water.

Little did Justina know that she was creating a major milestone for SBC’s habitat enhancement program. She is the first bear detected at the waterholes SBC constructed to improve water availability in the dry forest. This sighting shows us that building waterholes is a very promising action for improving the conditions this bear population needs to thrive.

 

Because we are working to address the impact of insufficient food and water resources on female and cub survival, it is extremely encouraging that a female is the first bear to use this new waterhole. 

SBC’s long-term monitoring of the endangered Tumbes bear population in northern Peru has yielded important knowledge. We know we can help increase the low female and cub survival rates by protecting feeding sites and enhancing habitat with more food and water sources. 

SBC has translated this knowledge into science-based conservation action. We are first purchasing private land to protect key feeding sites. Then we are restoring the areas of forest affected by drought and past cattle grazing and illegal logging. Irrigating existing vegetation and planting native tree species will create a year-round food source for bears. 

 

Sapote is a seasonal fruit that ripens in the summer and provides a key food resource for bears
Overo trees bear fruit when they have water, so irrigating the trees will provide an additional food source throughout the year

But as much as bears need food, they also need water. Imagine trekking through the forest in 35 degree weather wearing a thick black coat. Waterholes are the center of bear life and survival in the hot and arid dry forest ecosystem. They provide a place to cool off from the heat, drink, and leave scent markings to communicate with other bears

But prolonged drought and climate change are affecting the availability of water in the dry forest. When the natural waterholes began drying up, we constructed additional ones as an emergency response to provide more water for bears and other wildlife.

Enhancing dry forest habitat with waterholes improves water availability for spectacled bears and other wildlife like fox and anteaters

Additional waterholes also enhance water accessibility for female bears rearing offspring and help reduce dehydration. In order to prevent conflicts, females with cubs typically avoid visiting waterholes when male bears are around during breeding season.

This milestone with Justina gives us great hope and confirms SBC’s habitat enhancement program is a priority conservation action to improve the survival conditions for spectacled bears in the dry forest.

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