In the absence of tourists, these ‘intensely shy’ bears made a rare visit to the Incan citadel
On 10 May, one Andean bear and its cub walked through the 15th-century Incan citadel, located in the Eastern Cordillera of southern Peru, on a 7,970 ft mountain ridge.
“These bears have always been there,” Machu Picchu mayor Darwin Baca said in a statement. Andean bears — also known as the spectacled bears — are the only surviving species native to South America.
Andean bears have been classified as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The National Geographic describes these bears — South America’s only bears — as “intensely shy bears” who prefer the “lush, isolated cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes.” They can climb as high as 14,000 feet, it said. “They will descend to search for food though, and have been seen in widely differing habitats, from rainforests to steppe lands, to coastal deserts.”
The rare sighting of these Andean bears, that many attributed to the lack of tourists in Machu Picchu in Peru due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has pleased people on the continent.
Ernesto Escalante, a biologist who is in charge of the Machu Picchu sanctuary surrounding the Incan citadel told the media that these bears are naturally fearful of humans.
These Andean, spectacled bears are “generally nocturnal and are primarily vegetarian, harvesting fruit, berries, cacti, and honey, National Geographic says.
They are also agile climbers and are known to “sit in a tree for days on a platform made of broken branches, waiting for the fruit to ripen.”
They live in the Andes and in outlying mountain ranges, from western Venezuela and down south to Bolivia.
Their population is decreasing and their numbers suffer mainly due to the destruction of their habitat. Poachers are also known to hunt them for their meat and body parts. In some cases, farmers also kill them as agricultural pests, National Geographic reports.
The Andean bears are also credited with inspiring the children’s book character, the Paddington Bear, written by a British author Michael Bond.