bear research


Save the Bear

A sun bear displays her impressive tongue.

May 16 to 22, 2011, is Bear Awareness Week, and we hope you’ll join us in celebrating these amazing animals. While you learn more about bears, please take the time to reflect upon the challenges all bears face in wild and learn all that you can about what you can do to make a difference to help conserve bears. At the San Diego Zoo, we are passionate about bear conservation, and we’re excited to share with you our current research efforts, as well as an overview of the challenges that free-ranging populations of bears face around the world.

The bear family (Ursidae) currently consists of eight species, seven of which are conservation-dependent species (the sole exception:  the American black bear). Each conservation-dependent species inhabits a very different habitat, has generally evolved to exploit a particular resource niche (which may change seasonally), and has evolved a number of striking adaptations that have enabled them to take advantage of the unique foods they eat and the habitats in which they live.

While each bear species has evolved, over thousands of years, to cope with the various natural challenges to survival found in their environment, they all face extreme challenges to their persistence in the wild due to the impacts of human populations and the rapid pace of environmental change due to human activities. While humans impact the environment in a variety of ways, ultimately it is one single factor that poses, by far, the greatest threat to the persistence of all wild bear populations: HABITAT LOSS. From great polar bears roaming the vast Arctic sea ice to diminutive sun bears dwelling in the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia, suitable habitat is being lost or fragmented at an alarming pace. Climate change, resource extraction, and human population growth have all contributed to habitat losses. But, while these challenges may seem daunting, the reality is that if we can change our habits, reduce our carbon footprint, and make conscientious changes in how we buy and use products, we can reverse these trends, and we can save the world’s bears.

Historically, hunting was the greatest threat to all bear species. Unregulated hunting had dramatic impacts on population numbers for bears worldwide, especially in the first half of the 20th century, when a lack of regulation was coupled with enhanced access to bears (through motorized vehicles) and more efficient weapons. In the 1970s, the impact of hunting on some species, such as the polar bear, impelled wildlife biologists and managers to develop science-based harvest quotas that, over the years, served to stabilize polar bear populations. However, the unregulated “take” of wild bears continues in some parts of the world, and bear parts and the pet trade have continued to take their toll on a number of Asian bear species (except the giant panda).

Just as the impact of hunting on most bear populations was minimized through the efforts of people, so, too, can the impacts of habitat loss and climate change be reduced. We can all make a difference, and the first step is to get passionate about bears and bear conservation. A great place to start? The San Diego Zoo!

Come visit Kalluk, Chinook, and Tatqiq (polar bears); Montana, Scout, and Blackie (brown bears); Marcella and Francis (sun bears); Bai Yun, Gao Gao, and Yun Zi (giant pandas); Houdini and Tommy (Andean bears); and Ken and Bhutan (sloth bears). They are all great bear ambassadors. After visiting the wide array of bears at the San Diego Zoo, I have no doubt you’ll be inspired to turn off your TV, ride your bike (or walk) instead of driving, and carefully read product labels!

Find out more about the bear research the San Diego Zoo is actively engaged in…

Megan Owen is a conservation program specialist at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Love is in the Air.


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.


What a Difference Rain Makes

Clouds and fog in the normally dry mountains near Cerro Venado.

Russ is studying wild Andean (or spectacled) bears in the Lambayeque region of Peru and sharing his adventures with us. Read his previous post, Finally, a Little Bit of Rain.

Wow, what a difference a little rain makes in the dry forest! When I woke up this morning, I walked away from the base camp to look at the clouds and fog rolling through the valleys. It was just before dawn, and at first I thought it was still raining. Then I realized that what I thought were raindrops falling on me were actually flying ants!

A swarm of flying ants congregating and competing to mate after two days of rain.

After some rain, in this dry forest and in many dry habitats around the world, reproductive flying ants leave their colonies and aggregate in an attempt to mate and reproduce. Most ants in any colony do not fly, and these swarms do not last long. They tend to occur near high points, at least in the dry forest, and our base camp is located along a ridgeline. So, there are several large clouds of flying ants rising up over our camp, and near our camp. Each of these swirling clouds of insects is at least 2 meters (6.6 feet) wide, and up to 10 meters (33 feet) tall. They’re amazing!

As the light of the sun seeps through the dark clouds, I can see that the color of the landscape is changing. Instead of being brown, as it was only a day or two ago, it’s becoming bright green! There are thousands of tiny plants at my feet, each shorter than the width of my little finger. I have no idea what kind of plants these are, but it is impossible to walk anywhere without stepping on them. I knew that arid habitats often have an abundant number of seeds waiting in the soil for just a little moisture to trigger germination and growth, but it is one thing to “know” that something happens and another thing to see it right in front of your eyes. I can almost hear the plants growing…

Russ Van Horn is a senior researcher with the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. We’ll be posting more about his trip every few days!


The Bear Goes over the Mountain

Javier going to great lengths, as usual, to get his job done.

Javier going to great lengths, as usual, to get his job done.

San Diego Zoo researchers are in Peru to study Andean (or spectacled) bears. Read a previous post, To See A Bear.

We awake in the predawn twilight, rouse ourselves out of our sleeping bags, down some coffee, and head for the viewpoint, hoping to spot last night’s bear making the ascent back up from the waterhole. José begins to gesticulate wildly, pointing to a dark form moving slowly up the face of the cliff.

Through the binoculars I can make out the white spectacles surrounding the eyes and see his powerful forelimbs reaching out to gain purchase in some crevice or ledge. He stops at a large boulder and uses his huge claws to pry out a few snails, precious morsels of protein in this resource-limited landscape. Then, he is on the move again and, before I know it, he is at the top of the cliff, some 1,500 feet above the waterhole, and he disappears over the ridge.

The rough trails take their toll…on my boots. José does makeshift repairs on my boot after the sole was ripped off by the treacherous terrain. Boots last less than 6 months here—just one of the difficulties endured by this dedicated field team.

The rough trails take their toll…on my boots. José does makeshift repairs on my boot after the sole was ripped off by the treacherous terrain. Boots last less than 6 months here—just one of the difficulties endured by this dedicated field team.

Most bears are good climbers, but spectacled bears move more nimbly and quickly over steep terrain than any other animal I have ever seen. This ascent, taking just a few minutes, would take a person the better part of a day…with ropes. This opportunity to witness this bear’s remarkable athleticism is another reminder of just how well adapted these bears are to this rugged and challenging landscape. Fortunately, this ruggedness keeps this wilderness relatively remote from the impacts of nearby humans. But for how long?

Robyn points out the paths traversed by bears, and the way we will return.

Robyn points out the paths traversed by bears, and the way we will return.

The juxtaposition of this majestic wilderness so close to an expanding human population motivates Robyn’s team to do something, and fast. See post, Andean Bear Collaboration. This is why they are working with the local communities and government officials to try to raise awareness of this situation and, hopefully, bring some protection. This is also why we at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research are joining this noble effort.

We spend a couple more days exploring the habitats of these remarkable bears before descending back down the mountain and back to civilization, and the welcome comfort of a shower and a bed. The end of an adventure, but the beginning of a collaboration we hope to continue for years to come. Understanding these bears, and finding ways to protect them, will require a long-term commitment.

Ron Swaisgood is director of Applied Animal Ecology for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research.


To See a Bear

José scans the cliffs, hoping for bears.

José scans the cliffs, hoping for bears.

San Diego Zoo researchers are in Peru to study Andean (or spectacled) bears. Read a previous post, Dry-forest Bears of Peru.

It’s early morning, and the cool night air quickly burns away as the sun appears above the ridge of the mountain to the east of the camp. The light that accompanies the heat, however, reveals a spectacular scene. Still in my sleeping bag, I sit up and admire the view. Across a narrow valley, sheer cliffs drop down from the ridge and disappear below. A few somewhat gentler slopes support some vegetation. Javier points out an orange-ish post among the small trees: a posayo tree, reduced to a shattered stump by a foraging Andean (spectacled) bear.

A posayo tree is reduced to splinters by a hungry bear.

A posayo tree is reduced to splinters by a hungry bear.

Nearly six months a year, Robyn explains, bears eat these trees. Not their fruits. Not their leaves. They eat the wood. They chew them off at the base, fashioning themselves after beavers, topple the tree, and spend the next few days or weeks eating wood pulp. And pooping wood pulp.

Sapote fruit is a staple food for bears in the wet season.

Sapote fruit is a staple food for bears in the wet season.

Such are the extremes to which a dry-forest bear must go to sustain itself during the dry season. But they appear to thrive on it. How they manage to extract enough energy and nutrients from these trees is a mystery. Fortunately, bears experience more plentiful, and typical, bounty in the wet season when the sapote trees fruit. Then the bears descend to the bottom of the mountains and feed, often just a few hundred meters from human dwellings. These are the few, the essential, resources on which the bear largely depends—water holes, posayo trees, and sapote fruits. At least two of these resources place the bears in a vulnerable position, at the mercy of nearby human communities. If people were, for example, to expand their villages and farms to the base of the mountains, they may drive the bears away from the sapote trees or, worse, cut the trees down. If they brought goats or cattle to the waterholes, this too could prove disastrous for the bears and other wildlife.

cloud 9. After seeing my On cloud 9. After seeing my first wild spectacled bear, the clouds roll in, creating a surreal moment.

After seeing my first wild spectacled bear, the clouds roll in, creating a surreal moment.

Our camp is ideally situated for bear viewing. Amazingly, bears regularly descend these rock walls of the opposing cliffs to a waterhole at the bottom. This is a feat that has to be seen to be believed. All day we scan the cliffs for signs of bear. We spot a few more posayo trees that have been recently dismantled by bears. José traverses the slopes to inspect a cave where last year a female gave birth to a cub. No luck. The bears are around, but we don’t see them.

Then, just before dusk, Javier spots a dark object moving quickly down a steep rocky slope. Through my binoculars, finally, I see the bear—a large male descending headfirst, with the apparent ease of a Sunday stroll. Moments later he disappears into the bowels of the canyon where the life-giving water can be found. Tomorrow morning, we hope, we will see him ascend back up the cliffs and find a posayo tree on which to dine.

Ron Swaisgood is the director of Applied Animal Ecology for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research.


Andean Bear Collaboration

Dry scrub/desert habitat like this is used seasonally by Andean bears living in the adjacent dry forests.

Dry scrub/desert habitat like this is used seasonally by Andean bears living in the adjacent dry forests.

If you’ve read my previous posts (see Andean Bear Country), and writings by other people studying Andean bears, you’ll undoubtedly have noticed that we almost never see the bears themselves. However, the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society (SBC) and its director, Robyn Appleton, didn’t read the rulebook. They’ve discovered a study site in the dry forest where the bears are much more visible than at any other site described to date. In fact, Robyn and her field team have identified over 30 individual bears by their facial markings!

The Andean bear program has grown, both in scope and potential, through a new collaboration between the San Diego Zoo and SBC. [Editor’s note: Andean and spectacled bears are the same species.] This nonprofit organization has been working in the dry forest of northwestern Peru since 2006, building strong relationships with the local communities and making incredible discoveries about bear biology and ecology.

In addition to identifying 30 bears, SBC researchers have observed foraging and scent-marking behavior, described the first three maternal dens ever discovered by scientists, and begun monitoring the space use of three bears by collaring them with GPS satellite transmitters. Whew!

Most of the year, in most years, the dry forest lives up to its name: it’s dry. And hot. Only during some rainy seasons does it begin to be as densely lush and green as the cloud forest, which is what biologists have thought of as primary Andean bear habitat. However, there are historical reports of Andean bears living in dry and even coastal habitats, and it’s already clear from SBC’s work that the bears are reproducing and surviving in habitat that looks pretty challenging to humans. In fact, when I visited an area near SBC’s study site in 2007, the heat and slope made it one of the most challenging hikes I’d ever been on. Since then I’ve had tougher hikes, in southern Peru, but that’s another story. Although I’ll return soon to the cloud forest where I’ll continue to work, we can learn and accomplish a great deal for bear conservation by expanding our horizons, broadening the way we think about Andean bears, and working in the dry forest with SBC.

Stay tuned, it’s going to be an interesting year!

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


Busy in Bear Canyon

Sun bear cub

Sun bear cub

Whew! It’s been a whirlwind of activity for the bear staff at the San Diego Zoo! Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to take stock and admire our handiwork.

I suppose the list of activities must start with the breeding of our polar bears. JoAnne has already written several detailed blogs about that activity, and perhaps we will be hearing the pitter-patter of little bear feet up at The Plunge. Kudos to those of you taking JoAnne up on her challenge to write about your carbon footprint reductions; there is no better way to help the polar bear! (Read JoAnne’s blog, The Polar Bear World.)

Next on our list of new activities was the release of our sun bear cubs to the exhibit. Pagi (pronounced “PAA-gee”) and Palu (“paa-LOO”) took charge of their new space, exploring every inch and climbing high, as sun bears are wont to do. (Read Suzanne’s blog, Sun Bears: Adieu to the Den.) In the wild, these bears sleep and forage high in trees, enjoying fruit and shade and quiet places to rest. Their long claws and small bodies make climbing a snap, and even the littlest sun bears find it second nature.

Next up was the celebration of Bear Bonanza, a four-day event culminating on Sunday, March 22. Researchers and keepers alike were kept busy giving talks on bears, providing extra enrichment, giving special tours, and manning information booths throughout the affair. The crowds were good for the event, though we were a bit disappointed to have rain on Sunday. Nonetheless, our sun bear cubs put on a show, and the grizzly bears had a blast with their mock campsite exhibition. That one was a real crowd pleaser, as Scout and Montana mangled food storage bags left carelessly about by “campers” who were not very bear aware. Not to be left out, the polar bears had snow over the weekend, and anyone who has seen them play in the snow knows how entertaining that can be.

After the weekend, we introduced a new sloth bear to the canyon. Keesha explored her new exhibit space for the first time on Tuesday, and she did very well. She was cautious and moved slowly about her space, taking everything in. By day two she was comfortable enough to clear her food immediately upon release to the exhibit in the morning. I was happy to include Keesha in the bear translocation study that our other sloth bears had participated in. Come see Keesha, whose extra-fluffy coat and short legs set her apart from her brothers Ken and Bhutan. (See Suzanne’s blog, Ken: Sloth Bear Extraordinaire.)

What’s on the horizon for bear staff? Panda estrus, we hope. Thus far, we haven’t seen much to indicate Bai Yun is ready to go, but long-time readers of our blogs will recall that in 2007 Bai Yun didn’t mate until nearly mid-April, and she showed little signs of her readiness until the day of the matings. We are not surprised, then, to have no indications from her at this time. And yet we are on our toes and reading her signs daily. (Read our giant panda blogs.)

And the cycle continues: we are back to the pitter-patter of bear feet. Will it be polars or pandas? Both? Neither? It’s never a dull moment for the bears or the staff entrusted with their care and research. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for San Diego Zoo Conservation Research.

Watch pandas and polar bears daily!


Ken: Sloth Bear Extraordinaire

I had an opportunity last week to continue work on our ursid translocational stress study (see blog, Thanksgiving with Sloth Bear Buddha), by incorporating a new animal into our data collection: a sloth bear named Ken. He was moved out on exhibit in the San Diego Zoo’s Bear Canyon for the first time on Friday, February 27. Ken is an impressive animal, a good-sized bear with a long, shaggy coat that gives him the appearance of permanent “bed head.” He has a lot of energy, and I wondered if he would take his move to the exhibit space in stride.

And he did very well. Ken left no stone unturned in the first several hours of his time on exhibit. He cleared all of his food in a matter of minutes. He sniffed everywhere. He dug big holes, enough to sink his whole head and shoulders into. He broke off a piece of the climbing structure. What a bear!

When you watch Ken in action, you may get to see some of the interesting things that make sloth bears unique. His really long claws are well suited to their natural diet of insects, and tearing at termite mounds is a cinch with such treacherous toenails. He has a gap in his front teeth that, among other things, allows him to blow a focused puff of air out of his mouth really hard, an adaptation that helps him to clear dust and debris so that wriggling insects are more exposed to him. He also uses that gap to make an interesting vocalization, a type of Bronx cheer that he has been known to use to greet Zoo visitors! And why does he have such a long coat? It is thought to be an adaptation very useful for female sloth bears that carry their young on their backs. Long hair is easier for their cubs to grip, and they can hold on better while mom travels long distances looking for food.

You may recall the arrival of Ken’s brother, Bhutan (formerly named Buddha), late last year. These two boys had been housed together for many years at a private ranch in Tennessee. However, as they aged, they started to become aggressive to one another, and they cannot share an exhibit today. As such, Ken and Bhutan will rotate time on exhibit, with one bear greeting our Zoo guests while the other enjoys some quiet time in an outdoor sunroom behind the scenes. We have another sloth bear, a female named Keesha, who is currently in quarantine at our veterinary hospital. In a few weeks she will join our boys in Bear Canyon, adding a feminine dimension to our opportunity to study this vulnerable species.

We are very fortunate to have five of the eight living species of bear at the San Diego Zoo and hope that you have the opportunity to come and see them all sometime soon. March is the month we will celebrate bears with San Diego Zoo Discovery Days: Bear Bonanza (formerly Bear Awareness), and it’s a great time to learn more about all things bear. Come see Ken, Bhutan, and all of our other rare and interesting bears sometime soon!

Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for San Diego Zoo Conservation Research.


Andean Bears: Still Elusive

The cloud forest is, as you might expect, often cloudy.

The cloud forest is, as you might expect, often cloudy.

Russ Van Horn is studying Andean bears in Peru. Read his previous blog, Andean Bear Symposium.

I’m in Lima now, on my way to San Diego from the eastern slope of the Andes. I’ve spent most of my time since my last blog entry looking for evidence of Andean bears in the forests of eastern Peru. I began this search by returning to a mountainside where we’d earlier seen the leftovers of a bear’s meal and where we’ve had a camera “trap” in place for several weeks. Unfortunately, the camera did not take any photos of Andean bears, but it had snapped additional species of birds and mammals. There’s clearly quite a diversity of wildlife at that site, but it doesn’t appear to be used much by bears, at least at this time of year.

The bamboo was incredibly dense at this site.

The bamboo was incredibly dense at this site.

We spent a few days camping in the forest nearby, on a ridge that eventually climbs up to alpine grasslands. In other areas of their range, Andean bears are reported to use similar grasslands during some seasons of the year. Evidence of bear presence, such as feeding sites and feces, has been reported to last longer in such grasslands than in the cloud forest, so it would be interesting to look for evidence that bears use these particular grasslands. However, we weren’t able to get that far afield because of the fantastic density of bamboo. In one thicket there was more than nine bamboo stems per square meter, for a few hundred meters. Cutting a passage through the bamboo was a slow process, and although we rationed our drinking water, we eventually ran dry and had to turn back.

The diversity of canopy structure in the cloud forest

The diversity of canopy structure in the cloud forest

This ridge rises above the valley through which the Interoceanic Highway is being built. Periodically, loud explosions echoed off the surrounding mountains, as construction crews blasted through the cliffs, and these crashes would make us jump, even over the ringing of the machetes in the bamboo. There are parallels between the road construction and our trail construction, but we attempt to minimize our impact on the forest as much as possible. This is one of the challenges to ecological researchers: can you study a system without your activities changing the way it functions?

We’re trying.

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


Andean Bear Symposium

Russ Van Horn is studying Andean bears in Peru. Read his previous blog,
Andean Bears: Ready for Their Closeup?

I’ve just left Lima after attending the Second International Symposium on Andean Bears. Nearly all of the scientists currently working on Andean bears attended this symposium, which was the first such meeting in 20 years. Dr. Ron Swaisgood, Division Head of the San Diego Zoo’s Applied Animal Ecology Division, presented an overview of reintroduction programs based on his experience working with several species, and he was one of three panelists in a lively workshop on rescue, rehabilitation, and reintroduction of Andean bears.

I presented the preliminary results of a survey conducted on captive Andean bears in North America. This survey is a joint effort between various groups at the San Diego Zoo: veterinarians, husbandry staff, and researchers. We’re working to identify the risk factors associated with chronic and progressive hair loss among captive Andean bears so that we can then form and test hypotheses about the underlying cause and develop effective responses. Through our work, we’ve realized that this condition is relatively common among female Andean bears in captivity, and we’ve formed some hypotheses as to what might cause this hair loss. We need to collect additional data, though, before we can reach conclusions and suggest treatments or preventative measures.
The symposium was an exciting opportunity to learn about the other work being conducted on Andean bears, both in situ and ex situ. There is some great conservation science being conducted by several South American researchers, and we discussed research and conservation goals. I believe we’ve laid the groundwork for some productive collaborations, but only time will tell how these develop. Because over 100 people attended the conference, exhibiting a mix of passion and scientific rigor, I suspect it will not take another 20 years before the Third International Symposium on Andean Bears is held.