In May this year—thanks to the support by the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN)—I had the good fortune and privilege to visit the Spectacled Bear Conservation (SBC) Society project in Peru. SBC are a recent addition to the WCN partners network, so I was delighted to be able to meet them, learn about their work and share conservation experiences.
Located in northern Peru, SBC are off the beaten track—a sharp contrast to the busy, touristy areas that I had just left behind. The passionate, dedicated SBC team—led by their inspirational founder Robyn Appleton—could not have been more welcoming, open and keen to show me the work they are doing. During my visit I met Felicita, a lovely lady who leads SBC’s livelihood programmes who welcomed me into her home in the small mountain village of Incawasi. Felicita reminded me of one of our Mama Simba ladies, and we spent many hours swapping stories about her work and the work done by the Mama Simbas.
With habitat loss being an urgent threat for the bears, the SBC team are forging ahead and working in new areas and creating valuable partnerships. I was able to see these new areas of work and witness the dedication and strength of this inspiring team. They in turn were keen to learn about the work of the Ewaso Lions team, our community and research programmes, and Samburu where we live and work.
On my return to Samburu, I shared the large number of photos and videos I had taken with the Ewaso Lions team. Robyn had filmed a few video clips for the team providing details on bear habitat, the challenges of collaring bears and explained at length some of the hardships of fieldwork which I witnessed first hand. The value of such exchanges is immense. There is so much we can learn from each other, and I returned home excited with what I had seen and learned. Our team was fascinated and learned a lot from this sharing of knowledge and information.
Although I was not lucky to see a bear—having searched for hours through rocky terrain—I wasn’t too disappointed. After all, it gives me another reason to once again visit SBC in the not so distant future!
Thank you for your hospitality SBC. We hope to welcome you to Samburu some day soon! Ashe Oleng!
by Shivani Bhalla, Executive Director, Ewaso Lions