Volunteer Update for (September - December, 2005)
By: David Jackson, Field Coordinator Intag Andean Bear Research Project (FUNDEBO)
Things have been busy in a hectic year of ups and downs on the Andean Bear Project. As usual, volunteers are coming and going each month and provide a vital part of project dynamics. Their efforts provide a great hand to the project data collection and their super personalities leave a mark on all the project staff. So first of all a big thank you to all previous volunteers.
2005 marked a year of sadly losing three of our collared bears whilst gaining one. Early in the year, Juanito and Dolores removed their radio-collars leaving us unable to track their progress any longer, whilst the battery of Amanda’s collar ran out after three years of service from which we have a great deal of data.
On the flip side, we welcomed a female bear (which we named Fiona) to the project in April 2005. She was captured in a corn field in Cazarpamba in Intag and now is providing us with very interesting data with her wide ranging movement patterns, particularly being such a small bear.
This gain and loss now leaves us with three collared bears, and an urgent change in focus towards the capture of further bears. Therefore our current priority is to establish suitable locations for cage positioning in which we may capture and collar further bears.
As we have now captured 10 bears in total in the area encompassing the descending cloud forested ridges of the volcano Cotacachi, the probability of capturing more has diminished. The reason for this is that the 10 bears are now aware of the cages and being a cerebrally advanced species will never enter again. Therefore, our focus is on areas where there are populations of females and ‘roaming’ males that are as yet unacquainted with the ‘Iznachi’ trap. These areas we believe will be the Andean ridge (cordillera) of Toisan, and the southern tip of the Choco bioregion in Junin.
In particular, we are highly devoted to placing a cage in the Junin area. The reason is to provide an obstacle for the demanding international mining company which is persuading locals of the benefits of destroying this pristine and beautiful area. With international support and increased awareness of bear presence in this area, we hope that we can aid a campaign to preserve the Junin cloud forests (http://www.decoin.org). We will be searching the Junin area in early January for suitable cage locations with the aim to have the cages activated in February or March, funds depending.
The way we decide upon cage locations is dependant upon recent bear activity in an area or the potential of this. We search for footprints, scratch marks on trees (see the ecology section for more information) and recently eaten bear food for clues as to where to put the cages. Indirectly, but of equal importance is the presence of bear food sources. In particular, we look for an area that has a number of tree species that provide seeds and fruits that bears have a preference towards. These include wild avocados, wild figs, guarumbos, gigerones, cocas, lecherillos and pendos.
The volunteers here are going to have an excellent Christmas, obviously including the local families. We have a fiesta planned and hope to go to the 'misa de los gallos' on Saturday evening. Now is the time to party with all the festive spirit!!! But here we will, as always, keep working.
Let’s move on to 2006! For the New Year, we hope to capture and collar new bears in the new areas already mentioned. Also, following the successful release of Colleen, the female bear, in the Yanahurco reserve, we also intend to move the rehabilitation program to this area of untouched habitat. The main reason is to allow the bears to get used to the release area and also to facilitate the liberation process with bears already in their area of release.
One of our main aims in the New Year also is to search for funds to compensate poor farmers for the damages bears afflict upon corn fields. We are writing grant proposals for this cause, but unfortunately this takes time to come into fruition and any help whatsoever is gratefully welcomed!
These grant proposals are very time consuming and we are also competing with many very worthwhile projects worldwide. We hope to obtain these funds but can't rely on them. Any help would really be put to a good cause and hopefully the Spectacled Andean Bear will live to tell the tale!
All that is left is to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a prosperous new year from all the staff at the Andean Bear Project! May you all keep well and thank you all for your support!