23rd September 2015 by emmadurnford

23rd September 2015

In the morning we took a tour with the Eco guides at the hotel to see the rescued Spectacled Bears or ‘Paddingtons’ as they insist on calling them. The standards they are kept in are nowhere near what we expect in the UK but they have been rescued from circuses and zoos and their situation now is considerably better. They are kept for some time in large caged areas where their health is assessed and they are fed the correct kind of food (not coca cola in cups as they are in zoos by the visitors!).

After their time in captivity, if they are well enough they are then ‘soft released’ into an 11 hectare area of cloud rainforest. Here they can become accustomed to a natural life again although they are still fed. The ultimate aim is to release them altogether into the wild. Sadly due to lack of funding the sort of radio tracking and observations we would carry out cannot happen here. However the many guides around the area report if they spot any of the bears (they all have unique facial markings) and one of the released females was seen over a year later with 2 cubs so a big success and testament to the scheme (all funded by the hotel owner and guests). There are now only 6,000 bears left in the wild.

I did find it very difficult visiting the two bears currently in captivity - Keena and Pepe. Keena is doing well and I can see her with a bright future. However Pepe is much older (around 28 years) and is exhibiting signs of stress repetitive behavior - I had to admit I found it impossible not to shed some tears. Once in a while you could break his sadness and he would stop pacing and nodding his head and look right into your eyes - at only a few inches away. I am sure he wanted me to just touch him for some form of contact but I had to be very strict and remind myself that he is a 300lb bear and could easily bite my hand off if he wanted to - I do not think he would of though.

Later in the day and gluttons for punishment and covered in black sandfly bites we decided to return to Machu Picchu on our own without a guide. Well, we did not ‘just decide’ as we had to book the tickets about 6-months ago but you get the gist!

We planned to climb up to the Sun Gate way above the ancient Inca city. Although not a long distance it is very steep with sheer drops and a lot of stairs. I wondered if we would actually make it but sheer determination and some cereal bars helped us get there. Luckily the views were as spectacular as promised. It is really difficult to believe that the route was built by Incas and little has been done to it since.

My photo today is from lower point on the trail in later afternoon. I just wanted to show how beautiful the location is amongst the peaks of the Andes and even more incredible is that it was built by hand some 500-600 years ago.
This s a gorgeous shot Emma. I love the composition and of course the pov, and the way the mountains recede into the misty distance. Fav for me. What you have to say about the bears is very interesting, and I think my reaction to Pepe would have been just the same as yours. But I am so glad they are no longer with circuses and zoos. I am totally opposed to circuses which use animals, and I think that keeping animals in zoos, even the better ones, is justified only when it is for the good of the animal or the species, and not when it is just for the entertainment or even the education of humans (and I'm not sure about it even then). I take off my hat to the hotel owner and guests (including you and Colin of course) who fund the programme. I also take off my hat to the two of you for doing that climb--not sure I would have been brave enough!
September 26th, 2015  
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