Andean (spectacled) bears


Bear Courtship

This camera-trap photo shows a male Andean bear, left, being rebuffed by a female Andean bear.

This camera-trap photo shows a male Andean bear, left, being rebuffed by a female Andean bear.

To improve giant panda captive breeding programs, researchers have carried out numerous investigations of how male and female giant pandas communicate with each other, and how their hormone profiles change independently, and in response to each other. Applying this knowledge has contributed to the success of giant panda captive breeding efforts, which are now based on more information than is available for any of the other bear species.

In the dry forest of northwest Peru, where we’ve been working with the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society, there appear to be some relatively predictable cycles. Food for the Andean (spectacled) bears appears to be scarce for most of the year, so some of them turn to eating pasallo trees, and all of them gradually lose weight. Then, when the fruit of the sapote is available, the bears focus on that fruit and gain weight. We’ve suspected that the bears mate during that same season.

Although there isn’t much information on what courtship looks like among wild Andean bears, we suspect that males crisscross the landscape, looking for females that are in estrus and so may be willing to mate, or which will be ready to mate in the near future. Once a male locates a female, probably through some sort of olfactory communication that is similar to but different from the means used by giant pandas and polar bears, we think a male will then follow that female, trying to determine when it’s safest to approach her, while chasing off any other males that might also try to mate with her.

Like all bears, Andean bears are not social as adults, but obviously a male and female have to respond positively toward each other in order to mate. We believe that in Andean bears, like giant pandas, the coordination of reproductive readiness (and willingness!) is influenced by hormones, chemical cues, and behavioral interactions. A male has to get the timing right. If he approaches the female at the wrong time, she’s likely to vocalize loudly at him, box his ears, run away, or any combination of those alternatives. We’ve recently retrieved photos from a camera trap in the dry forest that suggests that one male, at least, didn’t quite time his approach correctly!

Russ Van Horn is a scientist with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read his previous post, Bear Ambassador Learns Importance of Plants.


Assignment: Peru and Its Bears

Just arrived at the Spectacled Bear Conservation Center (Centro De Conservacion de la Organizacion Para La Conservacion del Oso de Anteojos).

“After juggling some things around, it seems like we WILL have enough money to send you to Peru after all,” says James Danoff-Burg, the director of Conservation Education for San Diego Zoo Global. It was a quiet day in the Conservation Education Division, not even one month since I had been officially hired as a new conservation educator (my dream job!). Learning that I was going to Peru in less than one month meant getting down to business. First things first: learn that the San Diego Zoo has a project studying Andean bears in northern Peru. Check. Next, cram as much into my brain as I can about Andean (spectacled) bears and the cultures of northern Peru, brush up on my long-rusty Español, begin email introductions with the Peruvian field team, formulate trip objectives, and prepare surveys and interviews to conduct with children and adult community members.

The objectives: Familiarize myself with the Andean bear conservation project (see Missing Camera: The Work of a Bear?), the field site, and the communities of Rio La Leche watershed and begin formulating education and outreach initiatives to involve affected Peruvian communities in the conservation of Andean bears and the tropical dry forest ecosystem in this region of northern Peru. Was I ready to go? You bet. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’ve been gearing up for an opportunity like this my whole life, though I didn’t know what I was preparing myself for.

Here’s what my resume says, in a nutshell: degrees in biological anthropology and evolutionary biology, 14 years of teaching experience, and 8 years science research experience. Here’s what my brain says: This is happening to me?! It is a dream come true that all of my hard work has culminated in the opportunity to utilize my skills to bridge the gap between conservation biology research and the public. This is not to say it wasn’t all a little bit overwhelming, as this is my first project of the sort. But I’ve taught many different types of students, I’ve traveled to several foreign countries, I understand the science, and I’m pretty good at thinking on my toes. Also, I like people, and I like nature. A lot. What more did I need?

The view from the highway on the way to Batan Grande. Those hills in the distance are prime Andean bear habitat. Those trees in the foreground are prime Andean bear feeding grounds. Yeah, I’d say the bears are impacted by human activities.

Traveling to Batan Grande, the big town of Rio La Leche, is not so bad, especially compared to other educators and their extremely remote field sites (see Making Progress toward Monkey Conservation in Vietnam). Two flights and a taxi, and I’m in Batan Grande, a town that gets its name from a pre-Incan society that used large stone anvils to grind ore. The town is moderately rustic, with a few paved roads and mainly dirt-floored homes, but modern in the universality of running water, electricity, and the cell phone (seriously, everyone has a cell phone). I am greeted at the Spectacled (Andean) Bear Conservation Center by three Weimaraners (the resident watchdogs), the Peruvian field team members, and their family. This is where I am to spend the week, as this project works in collaboration with the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society.

A small, steadfast population of the bears lives in the foothills of the western slope of the Andes, very close to the communities of Rio La Leche, and the bears are hugely impacted by human activities. Deforestation, habitat degradation, and illegal hunting are some of the major threats faced by the bears and the tropical dry forest ecosystem. To combat these issues, the plan is to educate the communities about the forest to help increase how much local people value their nature and to provide them with tools to improve their lives in ways that help reduce the impact on the surrounding ecosystem. That’s my job: to take the cutting-edge research uncovered by Russ Van Horn and the small team of Peruvian para-biologists to the people and help ensure long-term sustainability of conservation measures. I am here now, and my mission began 11 hours ago when I boarded a plane from Los Angeles to Lima. I don’t like to wish people good luck because I rarely feel that anything is about luck. So instead, wish me a sound mind and a steadfast heart, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Samantha Young is a conservation educator for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.


Andean Bears: 30 Years Later

A young Andean bear is high in a tree next to a cornfield.

I’ve discovered that Peru is actually a lot smaller than you’d think. Sure, it may be around 2,000 miles long from north to south, and more than 550 miles wide from east to west, but it is still smaller than you’d think. Then again, so is the world itself.

One of the first people to conduct scientific research on Andean (spectacled) bears was Dr. Bernard Peyton, who worked in the field in Peru from the 1970s until just a few years ago. He was by far the most prolific scientist to write about Andean bears, in English and Spanish, and I have great respect for what he was able to accomplish. Due to technological advances such as remote cameras and GPS satellite telemetry, we are now able to address questions that he could only dream of, but a lot of his observations and hypotheses will undoubtedly stand up to all of our data.

It was a few years ago when I first read Dr. Peyton’s 1980 paper on Andean bears in Peru, and I didn’t take notes on all the specific locations he mentioned, especially when he referred to small villages in remote areas. I was more interested in general concepts and the biology of the bear than I was in the geography of Peru. Recently, however, I read that paper again, and I ran across a description that sounded surprisingly familiar.

On July 12 and 13, 1979, at 2,100 meters in elevation, Dr. Peyton saw a Andean bear feeding on corn in a communal cornfield owned by the villages of Queros, Quico Grande, and Hapu. On June 7, 2009, when the corn was about a month from being ripe, a colleague and I saw a bear feeding in the Q’ero communal cornfields, at an elevation of 2,300 meters. The three largest villages nearby were Q’ero/Quero Totorani, Quico Grande, and Japu/Hapu. Based on those unique place names, and the topography of the area, I have no doubt that when we saw the bear in the cornfield we were no more than five miles away, and possibly only ¼ mile away, from where Dr. Peyton saw a bear in the cornfield almost exactly 30 years earlier.

At times it is easy for me to become disheartened when I think about all the challenges to the conservation of species. From time to time, however, I’m reminded that all is not lost. Andean bears have been raiding the cornfields of local people for generations, causing them great economic losses. In spite of this, because the local people value their traditional lifestyle and wish to preserve the forest as it is, the bears are still there. I hope that in another 30 years we will have found a way to mitigate the economic damage caused by the bears, and both the people and the wildlife will still be there.

Russ Van Horn is a senior researcher for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read his previous post, Helping Bears in Machu Picchu.


Notes from Observing Andean Bears

This is the mountainside traversed by the bear and her cub.

I’ve just spent two weeks in northwest Peru, working in the field to study Andean (spectacled) bears with the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society and meeting with several people involved in conservation of the dry forest. As before, I’m impressed that the crew, the bears, and other large mammals in the area can cope with the terrain, the habitat, and the climate. It’s a very different experience than in the humid montane forests of Cusco. I can’t say which is more difficult to work in, because the challenges and constraints are just too different.

One big difference between the two sites is that in the dry forest it is possible, at times, to collect direct observations of the bears. I thought you might be interested in seeing my notes from the afternoon of September 9, 2010. My original notes, the raw data, were written in a type of systematic shorthand, but I’ll spare you the process of translation and tell you what happened, in every-day words.

The researchers' field camp, where the observations were taken.

Four of us (Robyn Appleton, Javier Vallejo, Isai Sanchez, and I) had hiked for several hours from one campsite up to another overlooking a waterhole. The plan was for us to spend the afternoon observing the area around the waterhole to ensure that there were no bears nearby that might be disturbed if we went to the waterhole. We wanted to change the batteries and memory card in a remote camera (i.e., “camera trap”) that had previously been deployed on a trail close to the waterhole. As we were setting up camp and beginning to prepare lunch, Javier spotted two dark specks moving along the cliff face about 1,300 feet (400 meters) away; there were bears to watch!

Here’s what we saw, according to my notes, written every five minutes while the bears were visible. The adult female bear was identified as Laura by her facial markings. Her cub, which is approximately one year old, has been named Martina.

1:35 p.m.: The adult female bear Laura is walking to the left, while her cub, Martina, follows 3 meters behind her.
1:40: Laura and Martina lie down in the shade of a rock outcrop.
1:40 to 3: The bears lie in the shade. We sit in the shade of a tarp.
3 p.m.: Laura walks uphill while Martina follows 1 meter behind her.
3:05: Laura continues to walk uphill, and Martina is now following 20 meters behind her mother.
3:10: Laura stands on her hind legs at the rock face, pulling down snails with her forepaws. We can’t tell exactly what Martina is doing, but she’s 4 meters lower down on the slope.
3:15: Laura is still standing on her hind legs feeding on snails, but Martina is no longer visible.
3:20: Laura walks to the left, while Martina is still not visible.

A cluster of white snails in the shade of an overhanging outcrop.

3:25: Laura has walked 65 meters to the left from where she was feeding on snails, and she has begun feeding on snails again. We can see Martina again, and she’s 10 meters below her mother. We still can’t tell what the cub is doing, but she’s not obviously interested in the snails.
3:30: Laura is walking to the left and uphill, following an obvious bear trail along the rock face. Martina is following her mother, 5 meters behind her.
3:32 p.m.: Laura and Martina follow the trail and go out of sight around the curve of the cliff. We do not see the bears again this day.

What can we learn from these types of notes? We can determine how often, for how long, and during what months adult bears feed on snails. We can document how cubs become less and less dependent on their mothers as they grow up by looking at the distance between the cub and her mother and how often the cubs nurse. We can document when bears are active, and when they sleep, and estimate how long they feed during each day. These, and many other aspects of bear behavior and ecology, can be addressed once we have enough observations of wild Andean bears in the dry forest of Lambayeque.

Russ Van Horn is a senior researcher for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read his previous post, Camera Trap Surprise.


Camera Trap Surprise

Giant anteater caught on camera trap

Russ is in Peru studying wild Andean (spectacled) bears. Read his previous post, Burning Amazon, Smoky Andes.

The longer we have remote cameras deployed in the forests on the eastern slope of the Andes in southern Peru, the more questions I have about what is going on in those forests. Each camera has been programmed to take 10 photos in rapid sequence as soon as it detects motion, and one of the cameras took a sequence that I find simply amazing. See the amazing photo series below…

The first few photos show a giant anteater walking up the trail, which is not uncommon at that camera station, 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) off the Interoceanic Highway at 4,176 feet (1,273 meters) elevation in primary forest. As the anteater, known in Spanish as an oso hormiguero, walked out of sight below the camera, the shine of two eyes became visible in the distance. When I first saw those eyes in the photo, I assumed that they were the eyes of another anteater. However, in fact they were the eyes of another oso, an oso andino, or Andean (spectacled) bear. This bear was walking up the trail, 9 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters) behind the giant anteater. Both animals are partially visible in one photo, so it was not a case of the camera failing to record the correct time for the photos of the Andean bear; the two animals actually were in the same place at the same time.

I could calculate the probability that this would happen simply by chance, but I don’t think I need to: the probability would be so small that I’m confident it’s not a coincidence. So, what was the Andean bear doing there and then?

Other than coincidence, I can think of two hypotheses to explain why the animals were together. First, there is the possibility that the Andean bear was hunting the giant anteater. However, I think this is unlikely for three reasons:
A) Based on the analysis of their feces, and the evidence they leave in the forest, Andean bears are thought to be primarily vegetarian.
B) The posture of the giant anteater was not obviously any different than in any other photos, so although it had to be aware that it was being followed, there wasn’t any visual evidence that it was alarmed by the bear.
C) Giant anteaters have strong forelimbs and claws, and I don’t think they would be easy prey for a bear.

So, if the Andean bear wasn’t hunting the giant anteater, what was going on? I think my second hypothesis is plausible; I think the Andean bear may have been following the giant anteater to benefit from the anteater’s superior ability to find and excavate colonies of social insects, such as ants. In other words, the bear may have been acting as a type of parasite, waiting for the anteater to find food that it could pilfer. I don’t have any data to test the predictions of this hypothesis, I haven’t found any records of this behavior in the scientific literature, and none of the bear biologists I’ve asked has seen this type of behavior before. For now, it’s still a mystery as to why there were two types of bears in one photo.

Andean bears Tremarctos ornatus are considered vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to rapid loss of habitat and corresponding decline in bear populations. It has been estimated that 50 percent of the remaining habitat for the bears exists in Peru and Bolivia, but this estimate was generated decades ago based on assumptions that have not been thoroughly tested. In reality, most of the accepted knowledge about Andean bears is based on limited data that may not apply across the bears’ distribution from Venezuela to Bolivia.

The goal of the San Diego Zoo’s Andean bear conservation research program is to address the gaps in our scientific knowledge relating to conservation questions in Peru while providing opportunities for Peruvian students and biologists. We’re investigating the bear not only for its own sake and because of its impact on plants through consumption and seed dispersal, but also because of its role in indigenous and post colonial human cultures. People care about the bear and are essential for its conservation, so it acts as a flagship species for the mountainous forests in which it lives.

Because it is difficult to use more traditional methods of investigation to collect data on bears living in the closed montane forests, we’re collecting much of our data through a system of remote cameras (a.k.a., camera traps). Because the bears have individually distinct facial markings, we should be able to estimate the number of bears photographed and collect preliminary data on bear behavior and demography. In addition, we’re using remote cameras to collect data on the mammalian diversity in these poorly studied forests in an area that is undergoing rapid increases in human population and diversification in human economic interests due to the construction of the Interoceanic Highway from the Atlantic coast of Brazil to the Pacific coast of Peru.

The first image above shows a giant anteater walking up a trail. The second shows the tail of the anteater and the eyes of an Andean bear. The third and fourth shows the bear following behind the anteater.

Russ Van Horn is a senior researcher for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.


Andean Bears: Two Steps Forward

The dry forest landscape in what is now part of El Parque Arqueológico y Ecológico de Batán Grande.

I’m pleased to report that there have recently been two tangible steps forward for the conservation of Andean (spectacled) bears and the tropical dry forest in northeast Peru, where we’re working with our collaborator, the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society (SBC). (Read post In It for the Long Haul.) In fact, both advancements involved SBC either directly or through collection of data and outreach resulting in greater community and governmental interest in conservation.

In chronological order, or first things first, here’s what’s happened:

First, the Peruvian government announced the creation of El Parque Arqueológico y Ecológico de Batán Grande to conserve both ecological and cultural (archaeological) resources in northwest Peru. This park was simultaneously created and recognized by numerous levels of the Peruvian government, ranging from the local municipal district to the relevant cabinet-level ministry. One of the primary catalysts for the creation of this park, especially at this time, was the knowledge generated through our collaborative effort with SBC.

Second, SBC has opened a center for conservation outreach and investigation in the town of Batán Grande. The town is closest to our main study site in the dry forest, and this conservation center will be used for conservation education activities by local school groups, research presentations to the public, and meetings with local community members.

Russ Van Horn is a senior researcher for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. Read his previous post, Unmistakable in English, Spanish, or Quechua.


Peru: Office with View

DiBujos base camp

My mission: to provide anesthesia support for radio collaring Andean (spectacled) bears as part of a collaborative project between Robyn Appleton of Spectacled Bear Conservation – Peru and the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research to study the biology and the ecology of the bears in the dry forest of the Lambayeque region in northern Peru. (See Russ’ post, Andean Bears: Camera Trappers.)

My officemates: the most incredible field crew (Robyn Appleton, Javier Vallejos, Jose Vallejos, and our own Dr. Russ Van Horn). Oh yes, mustn’t forget the mosquitoes, the leafcutter ants, the other assorted winged arthropods, miscellaneous birds, and a few lizards.

The office complex: a luxury base camp known as DiBujos, perched on top of a hill with a nice view, breezes, and solar panels to keep our laptop computers chugging away. It’s a choice darting location, a water hole within a comfortable 45-minute hike situated up a ravine. I knew it was too good to be true…

Day 1 to 3: After 2½ days of sitting at the DiBujos water hole with no bear activity, it is time to re-group. Camera trap photos from another not-so close water hole showed quite a bit of bear activity since the end of December. Goodbye, DiBujos. Goodbye, laptop…

Day 4: We set off at 4:30 a.m. to relocate to another site. By 6:30 a.m., we are tucked away along the side of a wash hoping to “catch” a bear coming/going to a water hole further up the ravine. Along about 1:30 p.m., a bear comes; however, he is on the opposite hillside, way out of our range. Bummer! The field team decides we should head up to the not-so-accessible water hole to scope things out.

I arrive at the water hole, clothes ringing wet with sweat from almost two hours of boulder hopping, rock scaling, and making a rope-assisted ascent up a cliff. It is clear at this point that there will be no descent anytime soon. We are well equipped with anesthesia supplies, but not so well-equipped to spend the night. But my “office mates” are an incredibly resourceful bunch; we clear an area further up on the hillside to make camp. We have gummy bears and peanuts for dinner.

The alternate office

Fortunately we have two tarps: one to sleep on and another for shelter, which become our blanket later in the evening when the four of us sleeping shoulder to shoulder become chilled. This is to become our new living quarters and office complex.

Day 5: At 6:15 a.m. we hear bears fighting; likely a breeding pair nearby. We ready the darts and get down to the water hole. Javier situates himself with the dart gun above the water hole. Robyn, Jose, and I sit hidden in some bushes further away. We hear bears nearby for the next hour, but none make their way down to the water hole. I never think I can sit that long in a bush; I watch the ants, I watch the birds, I sweat, I doze on and off, I watch the clouds, I watch the ants some more…6:15 p.m. and no bears, so back to camp.

The breathtaking view

Provisions have been brought that day by the field crew re-enforcements, Jonathan and Isa. One of our challenges is water. All our water has to be carried in to our camp, making it quite a precious commodity (sound familiar?).

Day 6: We decide it isn’t necessary for all of us to be so close to the water hole, so everyone hangs out at our new not-so-luxurious base camp except Javier, who sits patiently like a department store window manikin with dart gun in hand all day above the water hole. No bears.

Stay tuned for Part 2. Will a bear visit the water hole?

Meg Sutherland-Smith is a veterinary clinical operations manager at the San Diego Zoo.


Bear Culture

A large outdoor mural in the main plaza of Urcos, Deparment of Cusco, Perú. The mural includes important icons of the local culture: an Andean bear, an ukuku, and El Señor de Qoyllor Rit’i.

A large outdoor mural in the main plaza of Urcos, Peru, includes important icons of the local culture: an Andean bear, an ukuku, and El Señor de Qoyllor Rit’i.

Russ Van Horn is currently in Peru to study Andean (spectacled) bears. Read his previous post, Bear Care in Conservation Terms.

In my last post, I rambled on about why conservation of Andean (or spectacled) bears, and conservation in general, matters, from a scientific viewpoint. This time around I’ll wade into some of the other reasons we work for conservation.

The e-mail that started me on these two posts highlighted a Web site showing some hunters with big game “trophies.” In this case, the trophies were taxidermy mounts of large mammals, mostly carnivores. In the background was a stuffed Andean bear, and the presence of this stuffed bear disturbed the e-mail’s writer and at least some of its readers.

Aside from some legal and conservation issues, what was it that bothered people? Was it merely the carcass of a dead bear that got people riled? No, I doubt that was it, because bears die all the time. Was it because the stuffed bear was disgusting looking? Maybe some people thought so, but I think Andean bears are pretty neat looking; there are plenty of stuffed bears in natural history museums, and most people don’t take offense at them, so I don’t think that’s what irritated people.

I think what struck a nerve was that the stuffed bear had presumably been hunted in order to provide an experience for the hunter, and the trophy represented this experience. The reason the hunter wanted this experience, and this trophy, was because at least some of his values (the photo showed only men) were different than those of the people who were later repulsed by the picture. People value bears, and nature in general, for different reasons, and those non-scientific values are important to consider for conservation of nature, and of culture.

Bromeliads in cloud forest near the village of Capiri, Peru

Bromeliads in cloud forest near the village of Capiri, Peru

In my last post I included a quote from Aldo Leopold that referred to the importance of not losing species. Many people believe that there is value in each species, whether or not it has economic value to people. They represent living evolutionary history and have value just because they exist. Andean bears have value, and so do bromeliads. That fact that one has bigger teeth and claws than we do, and the other doesn’t, is beside the point. Both are worthy of conservation. Bears, however, play a big role in human culture and bromeliads don’t. Probably everyone reading this knows what at least one species of bear looks like, even if they’ve never seen a bear. Most people reading this, however, are probably wondering what in the world a bromeliad is, even though the odds are that you’ve seen more bromeliads in your life than you’ve seen bears. Many bromeliads have spectacular flowers and glossy leaves and are widely grown as ornamental houseplants.

So, why do we pay more attention to bears than bromeliads? Well, I think the big teeth and claws are part of it. When I was a little kid growing up in rural Minnesota, for me one of the best parts of going to pick wild blackberries was the chance that I might see a bear also going to pick wild blackberries. I was a little scared of black bears, but I respected and admired them, too. In an odd way, I guess my attitude toward black bears was a little bit like my attitude toward my older brothers. I wasn’t unique in thinking of bears as being a little like people.

Because some of their behaviors and some aspects of their physical appearance appear like those of humans, many human societies have considered bears to be unusual animals, not quite like other wildlife, but not quite like humans, either. As I mentioned in my last post, Andean bears don’t hurt people, yet these bears are important in traditional culture where they live. One thing that has puzzled some biologists interested in Andean bears is that although the art of some pre-Hispanic cultures depicts many species in great detail, there are no depictions of Andean bears. Bears leave so much evidence of their existence, as tracks, leftover food, and feces, that it seems impossible that these earlier people didn’t know about bears.

Dr. S. Paisley, who’s worked on Andean bears in Bolivia and Peru, has hypothesized that these people did know about bears, but the people didn’t think of bears as animals, so they didn’t portray them as animals. Those of us descended from the European cultures do think of them as animals, so we simply don’t recognize Andean bears when they’re portrayed as something else.

In a post I wrote last June, I referred to the festival of Qoyllor Rit’I (see Andean Bears: Field Research Continues). This is a major spiritual and cultural event for the Andean people living east of the city of Cusco, Peru. During Qoyllor Rit’i, hundreds of people make an incredibly difficult pilgrimage to a sacred site in the high mountains. Along with the pilgrims go people costumed as ukukus, a term that sometimes refers to tricksters serving a spiritual function, that sometimes refers to mythical hybrids between Andean bears and humans, and that sometimes refers to Andean bears. The bear may not have often been depicted in historical art, but it clearly has cultural value.

Different species of animals and plants have great cultural significance around the world. The Kuhl’s lory (a small parrot) has great meaning in the traditional culture of the Cook Islands, yet it has been driven extinct on several islands on which it used to live. When it was recently reintroduced to one of those islands, the local people celebrated the return of an icon and restoration of a lost part of their culture (see post Return of the Lory). If the Andean bear disappears, what will be lost from the culture of the Andes?

Every society that has ever existed interacted with plants and animals, and they have value to us. By conserving species, we conserve part of what makes us human.

Russ Van Horn is a senior researcher with the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research.