Tremarctos – Spectacled bear

South America's only native bear species, living in the Andes mountains

They are named for the white/yellow rings around their eyes, resembling eyeglasses. Yes, not all individuals have these ‘spectacles’!

Recognized by the unique white or yellowish markings around its eyes, which resemble eyeglasses, the Spectacled Bear holds a special place in the biodiversity of South America as the continent’s only surviving bear species and the last remnant of the short-faced bears’ subfamily (Tremarctinae).

The coat of the Spectacled Bear varies considerably in color, from dark brown to jet black and sometimes even reddish hues, providing camouflage within their forested environments. The facial and chest markings are not only unique to each individual, aiding in their identification, but also contribute to their common name. These bears have a more slender and agile build compared to other bear species, which, along with their strong claws, makes them excellent climbers.

Spectacled Bears are primarily diurnal, with their activity peaking in the early morning and late afternoon. They are solitary animals, with males and females coming together only during the mating season. Their diet is mostly herbivorous, consisting of a variety of fruits, bamboo shoots, cacti, and occasionally small animals, making them one of the most herbivorous of all bear species.

Classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Spectacled Bear faces numerous threats that jeopardize its survival. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to agriculture expansion, logging, and mining activities are significant challenges, restricting their living space and food resources. Additionally, they are hunted for their body parts, particularly the gall bladder, which is highly valued in traditional oriental medicine despite scientific evidence debunking its purported health benefits. This illegal trade can fetch high prices on the black market, further incentivizing poaching.