In an almost biblical chain of events, our partners at Spectacled Bear Conservation (SBC) finished combating one major natural disaster crisis only to face another. Two months ago, devastating wildfires burnt over 30,000 acres of forest in northern Peru, including five protected areas that are well-known biodiversity hotspots and home to several threatened animal species, such as the beloved spectacled bear. These fires destroyed swaths of critical bear habitat, many local people lost their property (and their livelihoods by extension), and some tragically lost their lives.
SBC worked around the clock—along with hundreds of community volunteers and park guards—to coordinate community members and provide trucks and supplies to finally extinguish the fires. These efforts also helped save the lives of at least a hundred spectacled bears. No sooner had the last of the fires gone out when the next natural disaster hit Peru. Ironically, while the wildfires were a result of years of persistent drought, the next crisis was a rainfall almost as ferocious and damaging as the fires. Heavy precipitation and mega storms at lower elevation, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the 1960s, has hit the area hard and has caused massive flooding.
While SBC is rebuilding what was lost in the wildfires and executing fire prevention efforts, they have also shifted focus to combat the intense flooding caused by heavy rainfall. For the past few weeks, they’ve been digging drainage ditches and trying to move the water away from the SBC headquarters.
Today, while the rains have almost dissipated, Peruvians and wildlife endemic to the cloud forests are in no less danger. They first need to recover from the damage the floods caused to homes, habitat, property, and farms. Additionally, despite this downpour the risk of more wildfires remains extremely high. Robyn and her team at Spectacled Bear Conservation are helping to reduce the risk of future wildfires by examining the destruction caused by the fires and floods, recovering damaged camera traps, recalculating bear populations, reforesting areas affected by wildfires, and implementing programs to prevent more fires during this extreme drought.
These challenges are big, but SBC is making a difference and their work in this area has never been more critical. Please support their efforts and help protect spectacled bears.