Ximena Velez-Liendo. The protector of the jucumaris – Opinion Bolivia

Ximena Velez-Liendo. The protector of the jucumaris - Opinion Bolivia 1

How many bears andean exist in the south of Bolivia?, the answer will come next year, when the biologist in bolivia Ximena Velez-Liendo, award-winning Whitley 2017 (seen the prize Oscar for the conservationists), finish your first population-based study of the species in the department of Tarija, in addition to its area of occupancy and forms of migration of these animals.

How different it is to see the bears of North America in their natural habitat, enjoy the protection of the human beings to live in good conditions; nothing similar to the situation in Bolivia, the andean bear, or Tremarctos ornatus, which is to be sought and pursued by the farmers of the sector.

Velez-Liendo think reversing this situation and wants to create awareness in the villagers of the nearby areas in Tarija, where it lives this species.

This plantigrade stance dwells in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia; and it is among the vulnerable species of the Red List of Threatened Species of the IUCN (also known sometimes as the Red Book), which was created in 1963 and is the inventory full most of the conservation status of species of animals and plants worldwide.

The situation of the Jucumari is complicated in Bolivia, because the bears, andean are trapped and killed because they are blamed for the constant attacks suffered by the cattle of the area; what is causing a decrease in their number.

Fighting for the BEARS

The interest of Velez-Liendo for these animals began in 1999, when I was 18 years old and first saw a bear in the wild in the Carrasco National Park in Cochabamba.

“It was the first time that I was in the field and I saw a bear. Is the memory more cute that I have until now,” said the biologist in an interview with the international agency EFE.

After completing his studies in Biology at the Universidad mayor

San Simon (UMSS) completed a master’s degree in England, a phd in Belgium and a postdoctoral fellowship in his city of Cochabamba, thus specialize in bears, andean.


Currently, Ximena is 40 years, and, although not it seems because of their complexion, petite, dress her youth and her little attraction for the makeup, it is one of the few scientific works on the natural habitat of the Jucumari, to learn more about this peculiar species.

This is the reason that for the last eight months, the biologist was established in Tarija, looking for the way that this bear is not a threat and not attack the cattle of the settlers. “It is the first region in Bolivia where we take a population-based study with all scientific rigor required,” says Velez-Liendo.

The team decided to start its census of population in the andean forests bolivians «for being the least studied in all its extension”, not only in Bolivia but also in South america.

As a first step, we installed traps with sensors to detect the passage of the bears by the place and capturing DNA samples from his hair or droppings. In this way, to have a count of the number of animals that are in the area.

On the other hand, the professional is completely determined to prove that bears and people can coexist in harmony. His project called “Conservation through the coexistence of bears, andean with people,” has the support of the NGO Prometa, zoo Chester United Kingdom and the University of Oxford.

According to the hypothesis, that handles the specialist, climate change has generated, that both the quantity and the quality of the food they are in short supply in the forests. “Bears are solitary and somewhat mysterious because very few times are left to the people,” said Velez-Liendo to various means of communication.

This situation is guilty of that the bears are forced to seek food outside their territory and, in general, is there where comes the conflict with the surrounding communities, explained the biologist.

Ximena Velez-Liendo explains that the places where they are currently working have with the smaller towns and the lower densities of these bears. It is for this reason that the figures that are generated from the next year will be the first that can be used with safety to tell how many bears there are in the area.

The renowned biologist is considering using the same methodology to study the entire region of tropical forests of Bolivia. So you will have a more complete picture of the real situation of this endangered species.

THE PROBLEM and the solution

According to the biologist, the conflict between jaguars, spectacled bears, pumas and indigenous communities are a fundamental element of the research, so it is important to determine the attitude, perception and tolerance of the villagers with regard to the bears, andean and other large carnivores.

“Initially we want to see how the bears are affecting the people, but until now what we are seeing is that the puma is a predator more confrontational,” said Velez-Liendo.

“When one of these animals attack livestock and kill one, the people are angry and hunting as a form of retaliation for the loss. It is important to find out the total number of bears that inhabit the area, because people tell us that they kill one or two bears per year. But if we are talking of 15 different communities, it is necessary to determine if the number of bears killed affects negatively to the existence of this species,” says Velez-Liendo.

Rob Wallace, director of the Program of Landscaping of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), argues that protected areas are important for the future of the bears of the andes.

“We will see if the use of these techniques improves the attitude of people towards predators. Engage people in the community from the beginning makes the project successful”, added Velez-Liendo.

However, there are many obstacles when it comes to keeping conservation in Bolivia, particularly in the bolivian Andes.

Thanks to the prize won, Ximena Velez-Liendo will receive 35 thousand pounds sterling, equivalent to 45 thousand dollars; according to her, it will invest that amount in the execution of your project.

The bear jucumari

The Jucumari or andean bear is the only representative of the family of bears in South america. It is characterized by white spot or brown that covers his face, forming around the eyes a kind of eyeglasses clear, although the shape and amount of white or brown is variable. It is a solitary animal, sheltering in the trees or in natural caves. It feeds primarily on plant matter.

It is of medium size compared to other bears, measured between 1.30 and 1,90 m; it weighs on average between 80 and 125 kg, being the male bigger than the female. Their coloration is uniform black or brown blackish, with rough haired. Your ancestor is the spectacled bear of Florida (Tremarctos floridanus), who emigrated from the peninsula of Florida a million years ago.

There are some legends within the folklore andino, who claim that the Jucumari is a creature that is alerted with howls to the Incas when the guarani are coming. In the rest of the continent, the legend of the bear mind that this, whether male or female, he kidnaps a person, locks you in his cave and makes it to have their young.

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