10 Facts about Spectacled Bears

The Spectacled - or Andean - Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) holds a special place in PeruNorth's heart, being the emblematic large mammal of northern Peru's dry forest and cloud forest. It is fitting, therefore, that we should give this attractive and endangered species some blog time!

  1. The Spectacled Bear is the only bear native to South America. 
  2. It is named for the white/yellow rings around its eyes, that give the appearance of eyeglasses. Each Spectacled Bear has unique facial markings and not all have these 'spectacles', though. 
  3. They live for approximately 20 years. 
  4. Their front legs are longer than their rear legs, which assists when climbing trees. They are excellent climbers and habitually arboreal
  5. The bear's normal habitat is Andean cloud forest located between 500m (1,600 ft) and 2,700m (8,900 ft). However, one of the best places to see them is in Chaparri Ecological Reserve, which is ostensibly a dry forest environment. 
  6. They are omnivores, with their favourite food being fruit, cactus, bromeliad hearts, and the soft parts of palm trees. They will also eat insects, small rodents and birds (especially those that nest on the ground) ... but their teeth are designed for grinding vegetation, and only about 5% of their diet is thought to consist of meat. They are, therefore, the second most vegetarian bear species, after the Panda. 
  7. Spectacled Bears are usually solitary, but will congregate, if there is a particularly abundant food source. 
  8. It is the third heaviest native land mammal in South America (behind two species of tapir): males can weigh up to 200 kg (440 lb) and can be twice as large as females. 
  9. The Spectacled Bear's only predators are humans. Despite it being illegal, they are still hunted as trophies, and because their gall bladders and paws are valued in traditional oriental medicine. 
  10. Literature's most famous Spectacled Bear is undoubtedly Michael Bond's much-loved Paddington, whose adventures have featured in twenty books, three TV series and two feature films. However, Bond originally imagined Paddington to  have 'travelled all the way from darkest Africa', before being advised that there were no bear species in Africa!