"Ebear" is a respected poster over at the Agoracom Aurelian bulletin board, and he bravely offered to write a post fer yer dee lektay shun. This one is aimed right at the mining executives that tune in, as well as the more thoughtful portion of investors in regional mining plays. So no more blab-blab from me, and I leave you in the hands of the mighty ebear himself. Enjoy!
Born just two months after Knut at a nature park near Verona Italy, this little fellow went largely unnoticed, due in no small part to the maniacal media frenzy surrounding Knut. Incidentally, his name is Tunk, which the dyslexic among you will immediately recognize as "Knut" spelled backwards. Laden with irony and cryptic significance, Umberto Eco himself couldn't have picked a better name.
No controversy surrounded Tunk. No petitions, no demonstrations, no one trampled to death in the mad rush for an unobstructed view of the little creature. He just went about being a cub in his own quiet, unassuming way, never seeking the limelight, never forcing himself on the public, such is the nature of his species. And what species might that be, you ask? Well, he's an Andean Bear, often known as a Spectacled Bear, or to the, ahem... cognizante, a Spectacular Bear, because these bears are, quite frankly, SPECTACULAR!
The story of their arrival in the New World is equally spectacular. While many alleged scientists cling to the notion that the ancestors of these bears crossed the Baring Straits during an ancient ice age, strong evidence exists that they actually arrived in the New World as passengers aboard the great Polynesian sea canoes that carried those people across the Pacific, and ultimately to the shores of South America.
The question then arises, why were they aboard? Perhaps as pets to keep the children amused on the long voyage, or perhaps for their excellent sense of smell, which would have aided the wayfarers in locating valuable roots and herbs in their new home. Unfortunately, this knowledge is lost in the mists of time and we can only guess at their ultimate intent. We do know, however, that bears reached Hawaii in this manner, and the remarkable similarity between the rare Hawaiian Bear and the Spectacled Bear cannot be easily dismissed.
Not only are these bears spectacular though, they're also very smart. Smarter than the average bear in fact. How do we know this? Because they studiously avoid people. Now is that smart or what? I wish I could vanish into thick foliage, swim down river, or climb a tall tree when someone I don't like shows up. Don't you?
Now, as advantageous as this behaviour is to the bears, for us it's a big headache. Since these bears are so shy and retiring, we don't really know much about them. They are hard to study. This wouldn't be a great problem, except for the fact that we're encroaching on their territory. Logging, mining, farming - all these activities interfere with the bear's ability to eke out a living, raise a family, and enjoy the good life, which as gentle creatures of the forest they so richly deserve.
In short, they are endangered. And so it falls on us to correct a problem that we ourselves created, because as smart as they are, these bears won't survive much longer without our help. Which brings me to my point (you didn't think I had one, did you? You thought I was just making up stuff about bears).
Inca Kola News deals in part with mining in Latin America, and some of those mines are located in areas inhabited by bears. Now, we've all heard how modern mining companies make every effort to be environmentally friendly, and to limit the impact of mining on the natural surroundings. But how much of this effort is truly effective? Does lining a tailings pond, backfilling abandoned diggings and planting a few trees really amount to serious conservation, or is more required?
Perhaps we also need to study the impact of our activities on the species inhabiting our areas of operation? Well, I can't think of a species more deserving of study than the Spectacled Bear. This gentle, unobtrusive bear is a virtual barometer of the health of the forest. If these bears can survive in a given area, that's a strong indication that the area is in good ecological shape.
Fortunately there are agencies engaged in studying these bears, and surprisingly, it doesn't take much to fund them since much of the work is done by volunteers who give generously of their time, and even pay their own way. Help is always welcome of course, including donations of equipment, facilities and transportation when bears need relocating.
What I'm getting at is that there's an opportunity here for mining companies to really put some teeth into the phrase "environmentally friendly" - to show people in their area, and the world at large, that they really do care about the impact they have on the environment, and the creatures that inhabit it. There are some good people already doing this important work. They could use your help. I call on mining companies and their investors to contact these organizations, and offer their assistance, either through funding or via donations of equipment and facilities to conduct this important research.
The goal of establishing protected areas where these bears can thrive is one objective of this research. Once these areas are defined, the task of relocating endangered bears and safeguarding their habitat can begin in earnest. This is the first step, and it needs to be taken now, before widespread development and human encroachment puts an end to these truly spectacular animals.
For miners and investors in Ecuador, here's who to call:
Project Director, Andean Bear Conservation Project.
Fundación Espíritu del Bosque
Reina Victoria 17-37 y La Niña
Quito – Ecuador
Phone: ++ 593 – 2- 2683 747
Fax: ++ 593 – 2- 2504 452
And for those of you working or investing in Peru:
Spectacled Bear Conservation Programme
Chaparri Ecological Reserve, Peru