Sharing lessons on Human-Bear Conflict in Quito, Ecuador

December 21, 2017

In the effort to conserve and protect bear populations, it is often helpful to observe and discuss what is working (or not!) in other parts of the world. 


In November 2017 the 25th International Conference on Bear Research and Management (also known as Quito Tierra de Osos) was held in Quito, Ecuador. Ecuador is home to the Andean bear or spectacled bear, a species listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1982. The only species of bear found in South America, Andean bears share similar challenges as grizzly bears: increased urbanization and sprawling agricultural and resource extraction demands have led to habitat fragmentation, hunting, and human-bear conflicts. Taking advantage of the number of bear specialists and researchers already gathered in Quito for the conference, the IUCN Bear Specialist Group (BSG) hosted a Human-Bear Conflict workshop to share lessons in coexistence and determine priorities for future human-bear conflict initiatives.

Multi-lensed conversations about bear interaction management are important learning opportunities to identify what strategies are working (or not) in other landscapes, cultures, and jurisdictions. For example, comparing and contrasting Ecuadorian techniques to prevent rancher-Andean bear interaction to Canadian techniques to prevent rancher-grizzly interaction should help each country to improve the conservation of their respective bear populations.

In order to support these types of conversations and learning opportunities, we chose to help fund the Human-Bear Conflict workshop, allowing for translations to be made available by headset so participants could partake regardless of whether they spoke English or Spanish.

Dr. C. Groff discusses human reactions after the successful reintroduction of brown bears in Trentino, Italy.

Dr. C. Groff shares the reactions to the successful reintroduction of grizzly bears in Trentino, Italy.

An interesting aspect of the workshop was the discussion of topics worthy of inclusion in a set of international guidelines for preventing and responding to human-bear conflict. Questions were posed with the objective of creating a useful tool for many cultures and scenarios, considering the varying factors required to ensure it presents a global view. Something that caught our eye was the idea of an algorithm rather than a set of rules - by presenting a possible set of processes to achieve an outcome rather than identifying specific steps that need to be followed may give those in differing jurisdictions and cultures who deal with different species of bears, an appropriate idea of how to approach human-bear conflict in a way that best suits them.

Eight Canadians attended the Human-Bear Conflict workshop, including organizing committee members L. Ciarniello and M. Proctor (who also happens to also be on our own Research Advisory Committee). Our thanks to Ms. Ciarniello, Mr. Proctor, and the rest of the International Union of Conservation’s Bear Specialist Group organizing committee for sparking discussions. We know that collective knowledge of the issue will help to further positive ideas about coexistence for grizzly bears in North America.

Dr. K. Yamazaki from Japan discusses the recent range expansion of the Asiatic black bear, which is causing serious conflicts with people.

Photos: Lana Ciarniello, IUCN BSG; Dr. Nishith Dharaiya

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