In recent decades, deforestation has caused a dramatic decline in Andean bear populations, and estimates suggest fewer than 18,000 bears now survive in the wild. This threat will only worsen in coming years as urban populations continue to rapidly expand throughout the Andes-Amazon region.
We've collaborated with the Parks System of Colombia to develop the Andean Bear National Monitoring Program. The goal is a monitoring program that will have the statistical power to detect changes in the Andean bear population in protected areas. So far, we’ve seen success. Our pilot program in Colombia’s Chingaza National Natural Park was able to detect a 20% reduction of the occupancy of the area, which points to a need to reevaluate management systems to help protect the species.
Andean Bears are very reclusive by nature and rarely seen in the wild, making species monitoring and evaluation a difficult task. Currently the bear is listed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable and WCS scientists in Andean bear range countries are developing new tools and protocols to evaluate and understand the current distribution of bear populations.
Among our efforts is the development and implementation of our unique Andean Bear Occupancy Monitoring Methodology, a field-based strategy and suite of best practices. To complement our methodology, WCS has compiled training materials for conservation scientists and National Parks Units and a standardized monitoring protocol—Andean Bear Priority Conservation Units in Bolivia and Peru. These efforts help us scale and maximize our on-the-ground impact. Increased understanding of the species and well developed monitoring protocols will help us gauge population health and develop community- and government-based management strategies to help protect the Andean bear.