In Colombia, the amazing ally of coffee farmers is none other than the amazing bear

In Colombia, the amazing ally of coffee farmers is none other than the amazing bear

“The bear saved us”asserts Julián Pinilla, a coffee farmer who, along with nine other Colombian black gold producers, has ceded part of his property in the Colombian Andes to the spectacled bear in the greater interest of local communities and biodiversity.

A sombrero drunk on his head and a coco slung over his shoulder harvesting green coffee at more than 1,800 meters above sea level, this coffee grower from generation to generation is full of praise with his uniform black or brown coat and distinctive white markings. Its face is relatively small compared to its European and North American counterparts (1.40 to 1.90 metres).

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Spectacled Bear, “Forest Gardener”

The only bear in South America, which lives high in the Andes Mountains from the far north of Argentina to Venezuela, is considered Tremarctos ornatus It is classified as “Vulnerable” in the list of threatened species created by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Their population is declining due to the destruction of their natural habitats through human activities and their sometimes deadly encounters with humans. It is difficult to estimate the number of individuals roaming cloud forests. The last study, 20 years ago, based on genetic data, numbered about 20,000.

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Their food distribution consisting mainly of fruits and plants and their ability to travel long distances make them the “gardener of the jungle”.

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By allowing spectacled bears to roam their fields in peace, following the “Conservons la Vie” program co-managed by private institutions and public administrations, coffee farmers receive in return help to improve plantation productivity through new tools and technologies.

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“Bear Coffee” under Fair Trade

Water treatment systems, septic tanks and coffee processing systems have also been installed. And the exported Bear Coffee benefits from the Fair Trade Program by rewarding producers, the value-added fruit of bear protection.

Since 2015, bear occupancy of the protected 3,000 hectares has increased dramatically according to program managers, a sign of the operation’s success. “There are no longer many disputes involving hunting or Elimination of Forests Because there was realizationconfirms Julien Pinilla who has ceded 28 hectares to the bear, which also benefits other species.

According to Ana Maria Garrido, an environmental anthropologist, one of the keys to success is to have it “I’m starting to include local knowledge”, in contrast to the old methods of conservation only shifted towards the creation of protected areas. Regions “which poses a problem in terms of people’s right to dispose of their lands” It is not taken into account adequately The role of (local communities) as custodians of biodiversity.the expert analyzes.

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Protected areas: more conflicts with wildlife?

Closest to the capital, Chingaza Park, about fifty kilometers from Bogota, is often taken by the authorities as an example. Here, the population of Andean bears is estimated at 100 individuals, and some tourists were delighted to be able to see them at the bend of the road.

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“In this sector, the bear has already taken a selfie and even poses.” Judge sarcastically Adriana Reyes, a biologist with the “Wii” Foundation, the name given to the bear by the indigenous Empira people of northern Colombia. “These residents don’t have much of a future.” Daniel Rodriguez, a pioneer in spectacled bear conservation and director of the Wee Foundation, points out the urbanization around the park wedged between several asphalt roads.

Bears in the park are sometimes forced to venture into surrounding towns to feed, and “When a bear comes out of Chingaza, it is killed.”Mr. Rodriguez says, referring to a number of conflicts between herders and bears.

umbrella species

The presence of a bear endemic to the continent is one of the education topics close to the heart of conservationists in Colombia because “Bear is a charismatic species”explains Carolina Jarro-Fajardo, Deputy Director of Protected Areas Protection. Umbrella species are considered to exist “Good indicator of the state of conservation of ecosystems” She adds.

In the woods bordering the coffee plantations of Julien and his companions who have together restored 397 hectares of forest, camera traps made it possible to spot a thriving biodiversity: crab fox, spotted agouti, seven-banded armadillo, gray-headed marten, oncilles, stags and cougars roaming the nearby woods. for the coffee shop.

Julien Pinilla rejoices: “We preserve the bear by leaving it part of the forest, it is a place of life for him, and also for everyone.”

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