Collaboration to Conserve Local Culture

Spectacled bears are not the only ‘treasures’ found in the dry forest of northern Peru. Our study area is in the Lambayeque region, an archaeological marvel and seat of the pre-Incan Sican culture. Lambayeque has seen extensive illegal archaeological excavations and theft for decades, which has meant a significant loss of artifacts and cultural knowledge, particularly near Batan Grande where our conservation center is located. 

Some estimates indicate as much as 90% of gold Peruvian artifacts in museums around the world originated from this area. Peruvian law prohibits the destruction or looting of archaeological sites, but these regulations can be difficult to enforce when sites are located in remote places, often in pristine spectacled bear habitat. This is where SBC comes in.

Pottery found during dry forest field investigation
Petroglyphs discovered by SBC team

Our field research gives us an opportunity to help conserve local culture. It is common for our field team to discover cultural artifacts and petroglyphs while exploring new territories in search of undocumented bear populations. We share photos and location data of sites with the Sican National Museum so that these areas can be properly evaluated and preserved. But recently we found a disappointing sight.

While out on a search for bear presence, our field team came across large holes dug by looters. These holes were made in an undocumented Sican burial site that is likely more than 1,000 years old. Burial sites like this may contain valuables like textiles or pottery, and intact artifacts are sold illegally by looters to collectors or tourists. Our team immediately notified local authorities resulting in a formal investigation and the increased protection of this remote area against looting and illegal hunting. Working closely with the local museum and Peru’s Ministry of Culture promotes their involvement in the protection of critical bear habitat while helping local communities defend and preserve their highly valuable cultural heritage.

Sican burial site disturbed by looters Large holes dug by looters at Sican burial site
Investigation of burial site with Peruvian authorities Investigation of burial site with Peruvian authorities

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