Spectacled Bear Tremarctos ornatus

Spectacled Bear by Thornsten Sporlein for Getty Images

Spectacled Bear Tremarctos ornatus


Extant (resident)

Bolivia, Colombia; Ecuador; Peru; Venezuela,

Presence Uncertain & Vagrant


Spectacled bears are known as the ‘peaceful and gentle bear’. They are the only bear living in the tropics of South America. Like many other animals in tropical ecosystems they are endangered. They get their name from their eye-catching markings around their eyes, face and neck that resemble spectacles. Each bear has unique markings like a fingerprint and some bears don’t have them at all.

They are found throughout the thin line of Peruvian rainforest and their range stretches across several countries: Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Colombia. Their main threats are habitat loss to mining, logging, cattle farming, palm oil and soy as well as hunting. Protect them each time you shop by being #boycotting meat, be #vegan #boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife

Known as the gentle bear – Spectacled #Bears of #SouthAmerica just want to be left alone. They are #vulnerable from #palmoil, #meat #timber agriculture and hunting. Help save them #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife

Spectacled Bears are the original peace-loving Paddington Bear in #Venezuela #Colombia #Peru #Ecuador. Threatened by #agriculture #mining and hunting – fight for them and #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife

Spectacled bears are a keystone species in the rainforests of South America. They are vital for seed dispersion throughout the forests. Their extinction would have severe consequences for the entire ecosystem and lead to a decline in the populations of other animals their home, including jaguars, deer, and tapirs.

Appearance & Behaviour

Spectacled bears have a gentle nature and are quite possibly the real life Paddington Bear

They are typically shy and solitary animals. They can run at speeds of up to 56km/ph. When provoked they will run away rather than have a confrontation with other animals including humans. However, mothers defending cubs have been known to become aggressive when threatened.

Males are about 30% larger than females and can weigh up to 180kg and are approximately 1.7 metres long. From paw to shoulder while walking they are an estimated 1.3 metres in height. Females typically don’t weigh more than 85kg.

They have shaggy black, brown or russet brown hair and distinctive markings on their faces and each bear has a unique set of markings.


A landscape assessment of habitat suitability identified ~30% of habitat as unsuitable to sustain viable spectacled bear populations. At a national level, Venezuela showed the greatest projected loss of key patches (70%), with only two of these key patches available to sustain its bear population. Peru, Colombia and Ecuador are projected to lose 31%, 29% and 27% respectively, and Bolivia 19%. Causes of this loss of key patch habitat is associated with human development activities that have not ceased, and in some areas may increase by allowing oil exploration and exploitation within some protected areas.


Spectacled bears were once spread throughout the entire Peruvian Andes but they are being squeezed out by agriculture and now live in 7% of their original range.

  • Habitat destruction for mining, logging, palm oil, cattle ranching and soy are the main threat to spectacled bears.
  • Their traditional food sources in the rainforest have been depleted and fragmented by destroying rainforests, leading spectacled bears to prey upon domestic livestock. Farmers then shoot spectacled bears in retribution.
  • Illegal wildlife trade for their gall bladders that are used in Chinese medicine.
  • Illegal poaching for meat and fur.
  • Illegal wildlife trade: Killing the mother bear in order to take the cubs and sell them into the illegal pet trade.
  • Extreme weather events related to climate change like floods and fires which cause a depletion of their natural food sources are also a threat to these bears.


Spectacled bears are highly adaptable to varying degrees of ecosystem disturbance and are found in montage forests to secondary forests, wet and dry swamps and peatlands. It is unknown if they are able to survive for long periods in grassland ecosystems without access to the forest. Due to dwindling habitat range, they are often forced into agricultural farmland where they prey upon domestic animals and they are killed in retribution by farmers.


Omnivores, spectacled bears have a digestive system, dentition and a pseudo-thumb that is adapted to processing and eating plants. They enjoy bromeliad fruits, cacti and palm nuts. They also consume small mammals.

Mating and breeding

Typically shy and solitary they generally forage alone. Unlike other bear species, food is available all year round, this means that they don’t hibernate for part of the year. Mating occurs throughout the year however females generally give birth to a litter of cubs to coincide with the flowering and fruiting season. A litter is typically 1-4 cubs and twins are common. The size of the litter will depend on the health of the mother and availability of food sources. Cubs are born blind and completely helpless and are carefully tended to by their mother for several months after birth.

Support Spectacled Bears by going vegan and boycotting palm oil in the supermarket, it’s the #Boycott4Wildlife

You can support this beautiful animal

Bear Trust International

Further Information

Velez-Liendo, X. & García-Rangel, S. 2017. Tremarctos ornatus (errata version published in 2018). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22066A123792952. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T22066A45034047.en. Accessed on 30 September 2022.

Spectacled bear sticking out his tongue by Natalia So for Getty Images
Spectacled bear sticking out his tongue by Natalia So for Getty Images

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Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, scientists, conservationists, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail and industrial agriculture sectors and through strong campaigning we can stop them cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and stand up for the animals with your supermarket choices

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