The ecological corridor of northwestern Quito, is one of the natural solutions of the Metropolitan Subsystem of Protected Areas, for its remnants of forests essential for wildlife, are about 64 554 hectares where the Municipality promotes the conservation of our natural heritage.
Also known as ukuku (Quechua word) or spectacled bear, the Andean bear is an important part of the Andean and Amazonian cosmovision. They are considered mediators between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and the Matsiguenga Indians consider them to be the creator of life, the Maeni.
The Indians knew the bear as Ukuku Ukuri. For them, the bear represented masculinity and fortitude, while the things were admired for their maternity and their protection of the forest. In addition, this animal was considered a deity. Before the conquest, the mother bear was worshipped, however, later the Christian image of Mary was imposed, which had no problems in adjusting, since it had the same characteristics that had been given to the bear. The similarities with human beings, such as walking on two legs, made the indigenous people identify the bear as their ancestor.This mammal is representative of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, where stories have been created about this mythical animal. The most popular tale in these countries is that of Ukuku. Legend has it that a strong bear stole and conquered an indigenous woman, with whom he was in love.
Even today, in communities near bear populations, there are countless stories about hunters who have fallen in love with bears and bears that have conquered women.
The Andean bear corridor will allow bears to move freely to meet their ecological needs for reproduction and feeding. In addition, the bears will be allowed to cross the Calacalí-La Independencia highway and the Guayllabamba River through the construction of bridges and tunnels.
The declaration of the corridor in this area is important, because possibly isolated bear populations live there, where problems of inbreeding, reproduction between members of the same family, can arise. Do you remember the myths about marriage between relatives? Surely you heard your grandparents talk about children born with pig tails or with some inhuman trait. Well, these myths revolve around one reality.
Inbreeding hastens the extinction of species, as it gives diseases more power to express themselves and causes new generations to be born with mutations, Creating areas that encourage the connection of different populations ensures the genetic health of the species.
In the case of local development, the program aims to implement sustainable activities such as ecotourism and agroecology and provide incentives to local people who protect the forest. For example, facilitating inclusion in the socio-forest program and the elimination of land taxes. At the moment, the corridor project is in its second phase, which seeks to consolidate and make it more effective. In recent months, camera traps have registered the presence of bears in the Pululahua crater, which has encouraged the placement of camera traps in more surrounding areas.
The Andean Bear Ecological Corridor, which consists of cloud forests, extends through five parishes of the Metropolitan District of Quito: Nono, Calacalí, Nanegalito, Nanegal and San José de Minas.
According to a press release from the Quito Mayor’s Office, the Municipality, together with the Andean Bear Corridor Committee, is carrying out campaigns to encourage citizens to care for and conserve this endangered species.
Part of the program “Quito, Land of Bears”, precisely, revolves around environmental education, research, control and surveillance, sustainable production and inter-institutional management, detailed the statement.
The aspiration of the Municipality of Quito is to ensure the existence of this species in the ecological corridor, which allows bears to move freely to meet their ecological, reproductive and feeding needs.
To this end, citizens are advised to travel carefully along Quito’s Andean route and to report attempted hunting or theft of bear cubs.
The initiative that has been developed since 2015 has offered different activities, among these, hosted a World Bear Conference last year, in which Quito hosted the region.
In parallel, in recent years it has trained 1,600 people in various environmental issues, such as the conservation of the Andean bear and in 2019 in the areas surrounding a road have been arranged brochures and informative posters for locals and tourists.
In this context, there are two routes in which to enter the cloud forest and observe this animal species that are ideal for nature lovers. These are the Spectacled Bear Routes, which take place in the Maquipucuna Protected Forest, northwest of the Metropolitan District of Quito, during the months of August and September, and in Papallacta (east of the capital of Ecuador) during the months of October, November and December. These routes show the diversity of Quito’s fauna and flora with the help of specialized guides, who explain the characteristics of these areas.
Ecuador is home to an estimated 2,000 spectacled bears. However, Santiago Molina, USFQ ecologist, believes that this is an unrealistic number. Molina began studying this species in 2008, when nine individuals of different ages were sighted in the private reserve Maquipucuna, northwest of the Metropolitan District of Quito (DMQ), between January and February.
It was the first time that this mammal had come so close to a place inhabited by humans. Although the inhabitants knew about the existence of this animal, they had never witnessed such a large concentration of these individuals. One year and eight months later, from August to October, 17 bears were recorded in the same area. Seven belonged to the first sighting. The bears leave the sector once the aguacatillo, a species of the same family as the avocado on which they feed, is exhausted. A total of 35 individuals have been recognized so far in the northwest of Quito. The Calacalí-La Independencia highway, the Guayllabamba River, the Pululahua and the towns of Nanegal and Nanegalito are the limits of this last remnant of forest. “Each bear needs 800 hectares to live, they are at the limit.”