Human-bear conflict is a
problem for all eight species of bears and the Andean bear is no
exception. Although the Andean bear's timid, non-agressive
nature causes it to avoid humans as much as possible, crop-raiding and
livestock depredation are sources of conflict for farmers.
the bear's point of view, habitat destruction or fragmentation by
humans is a major
source of bear-human conflict.
One of the biggest causes
between bears and farmers in Ecuador is the bears' tendency to
In many of the regions where bears live, communities live
in extreme poverty and farming families cannot afford to lose
source of income to the bears.
Electric fences have been suggested as a possible solution to
this particular form of human-bear conflict, but in our opinion this
does not solve the problem, it merely shifts it elsewhere - to the
poorest farmers, who cannot afford electric fencing and so have an even
higher probability that their crop will be raided.
If we hear of a bear
raiding a maize
field in our Intag study area we investigate the site and,
where a significant amount of maize
has been eaten, we pay a small amount of compensation to the farmer.
lessens the ill will towards the bears and in general bears are no
longer hunted in the areas where we work. However, our study
only a small part of Ecuador and we can't afford to compensate farmers
across the bears' entire range. Our research is moving
understanding more about how the bears use their habitat.
With this information, we hope to be able to develop a land
management plan which will suggest to farmers how to minimize the risk
of bears eating their maize.
Livestock depredation is
a lesser problem in most areas, but Andean bears are
known to kill cattle in some parts of Ecuador. Not all bears
do this, it seems to be just a few, especially large males, and it doesn't happen
in many regions. Andres Laguna's "ecosystem study" research is working to understand
cause(s) of this behavior and develop a strategy to avoid or mitigate it.
the past, the problem of cattle depredation has been made worse by the
refusal of local authorities to admit that it was happening.
Farmers complaining that their cows had been attacked by a
were ignored or told that they were lying or imagining things.
Scientists now have proof that Andean bears can indeed kill
livestock (even though most of them do not) and the farmers' complaints
are being taken seriously, which is the first step towards finding a
is at the
root of much of the human-bear conflict in Latin America. The cloud
forests are being felled in a desperate attempt to scratch a living
from subsistence farming. A cow is worth around twice the
minimum national monthly salary in Ecuador, so farmers simply cannot
afford to lose this investment. Rural families living in
need all of their maize crop. The poor have little access to
quality education and so are less likely to have accurate information
about Andean bears or how to tackle human-bear conflict. Many
Andean bears are killed, illegally, not for sport but out of fear,
ignorance or desperation.
To resolve the
complex problem of
human-bear conflict in the Andes, a large-scale holistic plan is needed
and the Andean Bear Foundation does not have the power to deal with
many of the issues. However, we do what we can with community
education to help local communities co-exist with bears, and research
to understand more about the bears' needs and to inform policymakers.
Some of our Suggestions
for Mitigating Cattle Depredation and Resulting
Human-Bear Conflicts in Ecuador were published
in International Bear News in August 2011.
Biologist Andres Laguna
maintains the national register of Andean bear attacks on cattle, and
works closely with the Ministry of the Environment in this field.
The Andean Bear Foundation
continues to lead the development of initiatives to resolve
or avoid conflict with Andean bears.
Bear Conservation Project: Human-Bear Conflict
The Andean Bear Conservation Project works with local communities to
reduce human-bear conflict and raise awareness of ways to co-exist with