THE BEAR’S ECO-CORRIDOR
There are about 2,000 Andean Bears (or Spectacled Bears) in Ecuador. Their conservation status is therefore precarious. With over 16 million human to compete for habitat with, the situation can seem unfair…
The only South American bear, the only survivor of its genus (Tremarctos) and one of the largest mammals of the Andes (although, compared to other bears in the world, he’s only a medium), Andean bears are primarily vegetarian and furtive.
Most consider them noble and solitary souls.
Their range is actually extensive, since they can adapt to barren páramo as well as cloud forest habitats. And yet, their populations have still been reduced to close to nothing.
The Andean Bear is an obvious ecological emblem for Quito. Through collaborations between public, private and community organizations, the so-called “bear eco-corridor” seeks to safeguard patches of primary forest where the species can subsist, protecting, in turn, all its faunal and floral neighbors.
A pioneer foundation in the region, which has struggled from the start to create buffer zones for conservation in Northwestern Ecuador. Its primary forest is very healthy. You can stay and explore its trails, bird watch (its species list is extensive) and feel the grandeur of the cloud forest in all its splendor. Bears are frequent visitors to the reserve, especially when pacche and aguacatillo trees are in fruit. Detour to Nanegal at the town of Nanegalito (on the Calacali–Independencia highway) and continue to Las Marianitas.
In the community “offices”, you’ll find the new restaurant, which at the moment is being called The Lookout, “el Mirador” (it may get another official name later). In any case, the view and location are very special. You are invited to taste their treats, visit the community and discover its beautiful natural surroundings (detour at km 26 on Calacalí-La Independencia highway).
The Guantupungo culunco (an ancient pre-Inca forest path) is a wonderful several-hour trek to the community of Santa Lucía, perfectly equipped and in good condition, with the highest walls of all the culuncos in the area. We walked a while with Raúl Torres, who knows the area very well, collaborates with guiding and maintenance of the camera traps to monitor the area’s bears. Starting December, it’s a good time to seek them out, as dozens of bears gather come out to eat the pacche and aguacatillo trees in fruit. Yes… dozens!
El Pahuma Orquideological Reserve
There are several trails for different interests and physical conditions. You can even reach the highland culunco of Alaspungo, a steep walk over an hour to the top of the mountain. Waterfalls here are a highlight. One of them is actually quite close to the entrance and does not require much of a walk; it’s a nice thing to do with children. Orchids, on the other hand, are not always in bloom at the small interpretation center. The entrance fee is [.50 and the place offers a small restaurant (km 42 on the Calacalí – La Independencia highway).