After attending her first International Conference with the Association for Bear Research and Management, Robyn Appleton, SBC’s founder, noted an urgent need for research on spectacled bears—the least known bear species globally and living in an endangered dry forest habitat. In 2007, Robyn connected with hunter-turned-conservationist Javier Vallejos in northern Peru, and together they hiked through the equatorial dry forest of the Andes mountains for eight months before spotting Laura.
Laura was the first spectacled bear that we studied and was the first wild spectacled bear in Peru to be fitted with a GPS collar as part of our research. Over the years that we spent with Laura in the field, we learned an incredible amount of crucial information about spectacled bears in the wild and we developed a special bond with her. Laura died prematurely in 2013 from malnutrition and disease, but she is still the inspiration behind the work we do each day.
In 2009, we officially registered Spectacled Bear Conservation as a non-profit organization in Peru, with the objective of continuing research and partnering with local communities to protect spectacled bear habitat. Since then, our team has also grown, from a small group in the early days into a resilient group with the same passion, dedication and commitment to do what it takes to protect spectacled bears.
Powered by passion, Javier, José and Isai joined Robyn to launch the first ever wild spectacled bear observational study in Peru. For five years, they lived amongst spectacled bears in the dry forest collecting crucial data. Their passion is the foundation of SBC and goes beyond the field. In 2010, Javier won the Disney Conservation Hero award for his contribution to finding the previously undocumented dry forest spectacled bears. José was also recognized with the Disney Conservation Hero award for his bravery in risking his life to protect spectacled bears and local residents during the wildfires in 2016. Isai’s ingenuity and resourcefulness has been critical to building and expanding our conservation center in Batán Grande, as both a community hub and our headquarters in northern Peru.
In this photo, Laura is passing saliva to her cub, Martina, to keep her hydrated. At the time, Laura was starving from the lack of access to sapote fruit (a critical food source in her fragmented dry forest habitat) and was unable to produce enough milk. Laura was doing everything she could to keep Martina alive. Our logo is inspired by this strong connection between mother and cub and represents resilience, hope and continuity of the spectacled bear species.
We conduct our conservation work in both the Lambayeque and Cajamarca regions of Peru. Cerro Venado, where we first observed Laura, has been our main study area in the equatorial dry forest for the past 12 years. The mountain and surrounding area, located in the La Leche river basin, contains prime spectacled bear habitat and is in close proximity to the community of Batán Grande.
This area also has special cultural and archaeological significance in Peru. The Batán Grande area is known as the center of the pre-Incan Sicán civilization. The National Sanctuary of the Pomac Forest (Bosque de Pomac) is a large protected dry forest area and holds a complex of ancient pyramid ruins. Our field research contributed to the creation of a new protected area called El Parque Arqueológico y Ecológico de Batán Grande (Parque Batán Grande). Parque Batán Grande connects with El Refugio del Vida Silvestre de Laquipampa (Refugio Laquipampa). We are working to link these areas to others in a conservation corridor for spectacled bears that spans a large elevational gradient across the La Leche basin.
Our conservation center is located in Batán Grande, Lambayeque, Peru, and is the headquarters for our team and our work to protect spectacled bears. Our local Felti team meets here weekly, we hold Felti training workshops and host education sessions for local school children. It is also home to some special residents; we rescue and care for domestic animals, including horses, mules, donkeys, and goats. Our horses, Ryo, Jessie, Jenny and Leo, are important members of our field team, helping us transport supplies and personnel into the nearby dry forest study areas.