What’s In A Name? – Introducing The Tumbes Bear

The spectacled bear is the only bear in South America. They typically live in montane cloud forests high in the Andes mountains from Venezuela to Bolivia. However, a small bear population inhabits a unique and highly threatened ecosystem in northwestern Peru called the equatorial dry forest.

SBC has studied bears in this arid habitat for over 15 years, and we recently defined this unique bear population as the ‘Tumbes bear’. This name comes from the Tumbesian ecoregion in northern Peru that is a global biodiversity hotspot.

The equatorial dry forest has next to no precipitation and temperatures reaching well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But the Tumbes bear is naturally isolated and has adapted to survive in this extreme ecosystem. A deep impassable canyon formed by the Marañón River and the Huancabamba depression forms a natural barrier that separates the Tumbes bear population from the main Andes Mountain range and core spectacled bear populations.

SBC discovered a spectacled bear population in Cerro Venado, Lambayeque in 2007. Then in 2015, SBC expanded field work into higher elevation montane cloud forest and paramo ecosystems, documenting unknown spectacled bear and mountain tapir individuals. We now refer to the bears in these ecosystems as the Tumbes bear.

Tumbes bears inhabit three distinct ecosystems: low-elevation dry forest, mid-elevation montane cloud forest, and high-elevation paramo grasslands west of the Andes. Because it is the only spectacled bear population inhabiting the low-elevation dry forest ecosystem, the Tumbes bear population is considered endangered and a conservation priority.

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