Paddington Bear turns 55 this year. Fond of marmalade sandwiches and wearing wellington boots, he is the creation of the English author Michael Bond, and his stories and adventures have been translated into 30 languages. Inspired by a teddy bear he bought in Selfridges, London, Bond wrote about a bear who is from deepest, darkest Peru. His parents die in an earthquake, so he is left in the care of his Aunt Lucy. Sadly, Aunt Lucy has to move to the Home for Retired Bears in Lima and Paddington or Pastuso (strange, as it means somebody from Pasto, Colombia!) arrives alone in Paddington Station to be taken in by the Brown family. Famously, around his neck is a label which bears the words: Please look after this bear. Thank you.
Hang on a minute, though. Bears? In Peru? Llamas, guinea pigs and condors, yes, but bears? Actually it’s more plausible than it first appears. Peru is home to the only surviving bears in South America, the Tremarctos ornatus or Spectacled Bear (they can also be found in parts of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador). Sadly they don’t wear duffel coats like Paddington/Pastuso, but they are unusual-looking and rather beautiful. Even more sadly, the Spectacled Bears are classified as Vulnerable on the conservation scale, because they are under threat due to loss of their habitat (through mining, road development, oil extraction and agricultural practices), to hunting (a single bear paw can fetch up to $150) and a lack of funding/legal protection for these animals.
Perhaps it’s time now to look after these bears, before it is too late. I am sure Aunt Lucy would approve.
Spectacled Bears Conservation Society: http://sbc-peru.org/pages/en/home.php
World Wildlife Fund (Adopt a Spectacled Bear): http://gifts.worldwildlife.org/gift-center/gifts/Species-Adoptions/Spectacled-Bear.aspx