Buying Time For Bears: Second Land Purchase Saves More Vital Habitat

The setting sun casts a warm glow across the landscape as the SBC team gazes towards the foothills. For nearly 15 years, they have watched bears descend from the mountains to feed here on groves of sapote trees at the start of each summer. After a long winter with no food available at higher elevation, bears are nearly starving by the time they reach these hills.

This is one of the last remaining feeding areas in the valley. Bears, particularly females and cubs, rely on this area for survival.

The SBC team has also carried the burden of knowing that this critically important feeding area for bears has been under constant threat from encroaching agriculture. Until now. And they breathe a sigh of relief.

Sapote trees grow on the valley bottom and ripen in this area earlier than anywhere else due to the microclimate. This is typically where we first observe bears each summer.
Spectacled bears descend through the foothills to reach this vital feeding area. The sapote groves are located close to the base of the foothills adding an element of safety for bears.

We recently completed our second private land purchase hosting vital feeding habitat for spectacled bears. Now, along with our first property purchased in 2021, more than 1,000 acres of land are permanently protected. This is a milestone that didn’t seem possible a decade ago. It is a powerful outcome for conservation after 15 years of field research, collaboration with passionate supporters, and negotiations with local landowners.

We know from our research that if we didn’t take action, this bear population would be extinct in under 20 years. Possibly sooner. But by strategically protecting feeding areas, we are slowing down their extinction rate.

However, our vision is that this bear population thrives.

Our next step is to enhance the availability of food and water by planting trees, irrigating vegetation (like overo plants that will fruit year-round), and constructing permanent waterholes. Increasing these resources for bears is the best chance we have to secure their future.

Sapote fruit is a key food source for bears that is in season between November and March each year. Creamy like an avocado, it is calorie-rich and helps bears quickly gain weight.
Overo is an aseasonal plant, meaning it fruits whenever water is available. It is abundant on the property, and irrigating overo will provide an additional year-round food source for bears.

Purchasing private land to protect key habitat and then enhancing the resources bears need most are two conservation actions that will save this bear population. As the sun dips below the horizon, the SBC team takes one last look across the property knowing that tomorrow is now more certain for the Tumbes bear.

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