With Paddington released this week in the U.S., we thought it would be a great time to look at the species of bear that inspired the lovable character from Michael Bond’s books. Paddington Bear has taken a much more human style than his Andean, or Spectacled Bear, inspiration – his character wears a big hat, a trench coat and is always the most polite creature in the room.
Spectacled Bears, on the other hand, do none of those things. Spectacled bears are about one-third the size of grizzly bears. They, like Paddington, have brown fur (though there’s tends to be much darker). Often, these bears have a “spectacle” pattern of tan and white around their face, hence their catchy name.
These bears don’t eat traditional English breakfasts and marmalade like Paddington bear does. Instead, they eat things such as cactus, fruit, bark and bamboo. Both Paddington bear and the Spectacled bear hail from “darkest Peru,” but this species of bear can also be found in parts of Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia.
Unfortunately for all you Paddington lovers out there, the Spectacled Bear is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Recent estimates believe that there are only about 16,000 individuals left in the wild. They are threatened as a direct result of habitat loss, fragmentation and, sadly, poaching. As the Spectacled Bear loses its habitat, they are forced onto agricultural lands and often are killed by farmers.
With Paddington gaining popularity across the world once again, we hope that people will feel compelled to protect the animals that inspired the lovable character. Thankfully, the film adaptation uses a CGI bear as opposed to a real Spectacled Bear, keeping one more individual out of captivity.
If you would like to learn more about the Spectacled Bear, Paddington’s cousin, you can visit the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society or the Andean Bear Foundation. Both of these organizations, along with others, are working to spread awareness about these disappearing bears.
Though they don’t talk, eat marmalade, or don adorable rain coats, these bears are truly remarkable creatures that deserve the same love and respect as the character they inspired.
Lead image source: Steve Wilson/Flickr