The efforts of the Biocontacto foundation for the conservation of the Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) in Venezuela began in 2004 with the ex-situ work carried out in the Chorros de Milla Zoo in the city of Mérida.
Casuistry of Appearance
The casuistry of appearances of bears between 2004 and 2015 in the
Mérida mountain range, whether due to confiscations or conflict situations, was almost 1 bear per year. Two of these were rehabilitated and released into the wild, 6 were kept in zoos, and 1 died hours after being confiscated.
Release and Monitoring
The sightings of bears and traces of activity were distributed across the
year, during 2 significant periods and in 2 defined altitudinal levels of the Merida mountain range in the study area Páramo Los Conejos. They are defined by the months of March and August in the transition between the cloud forest and the páramo (2200 m – 3500 m) coinciding with the flowering of the “Piñuela” (Puya sp.). Also, during the months of September to November they show high activity, with the most recent sightings of juveniles, adult males and females with offspring, occurring in the deciduous forest (1500 m – 1800 m) coinciding with the flowering of the “Cinaro” (Psidium caudatum).
There are 2 release and monitoring experiences documented in the Páramo de los Conejos. The first one in 2008 was an adult male called “Cinaro”, which was translocated because of human-bear conflict and was monitored with no tracking technology but the use of a tagging technique and community support. Using these methods, it was possible to verify that this individual, who at the time was an old animal, perhaps more than 15 years old, stayed within an area of less than 10 km2 in a period of 6 months.
The second release and monitoring experience used radio-collar to track a female named Patty over a one year period in the same study area beginning in March 2017. We determined that the displacement area of of the specimen was within the 16 km2 that Goldstein and Castellanos (2015) suggests, however, depending on the food disposition through the different seasons of the year this displacement can increase considerably.
Community work is fundamental to the success of conservation projects for any species. The bear does not escape this reality and in the case of released bears, the support of the community for the work of monitoring and safeguarding them was crucial.
Currently, the communities of the páramo go through difficulties that can vary from the theft of cattle or their predation by feral dogs, and sometimes it is the bear to whom these losses are attributed. It is necessary to continue to advise communities, for the reproductive control of pets, the sanitary control of livestock that are in direct contact with bears, and the control of feral dogs using techniques that do not affect other wildlife such as the poisoning of the carcasses.
The casuistry of bear appearances in the Merida mountains. Range from 2004 to 2016
Discussion and Conclusions
- Livestock represents the main source of livelihood in the area, therefore strategic alliances with the community is an important point to be addressed. (Sanitary control, control of predation by introduced species and cattle rustling).
- The mechanisms of reproductive control of pets, eradication of introduced species and feral dogs that attack live- stock in the area, is an important consideration for the survival of the species.
- There is a misconception about the behavior of the bear as a potential predator, and a lack of real knowledge about the species, which requires modifying its conception as a dangerous animal.
- The different sightings throughout the study area together with the seasonal sightings, according to the availability of food, suggest that the movement of males and females may be increasing.
- The contact of the bear within conflict areas (livestock grazing activities), increases the risk and predisposition to infectious diseases derived from poor sanitary control of the herd.
- The training of members of the community and their active participation in conservation programs, provide an implicit gain in the conservation of the bear, where both parties will benefit in dispute litigation.
Gabriel LacruzThere are 84 communities between the Sierra Nevada and Sierra La Culata (Merida Mountain Range) in which it is estimated that there is greater pressure from anthropogenic activities on the ecosystem. This will increase progressively over time. The accu- mulated experience to date by the NGO Biocontacto in Venezuela, will allow us to create the basis to establish legal frameworks and protocols for the capture, management, rehabilitation and libera- tion of the Andean Bear, in order to diminish and effectively solve human-bear conflicts in the state of Merida, Venezuela.
The scope of this project is to replicate the activities in the communities mentioned, in order to establish a conservation plan for the Andean Bear for the state of Merida, while considering the influence of population centers in the ecosystems they occupy.
This project can be extrapolated to all these communities.