Ten community leaders named ¨Disney Conservation Heroes¨

Remigio Orellana, community park guard, receives the "Conservation Hero Medal" on behalf of the group.

Cuenca, Ecuador (17 May 2013) – The "Corps of Community Park Guards" have been named Disney Conservation Heroes in recognition of their work to protect and conserve the endangered spectacled bear and its associated habitat, reports Fundación Cordillera Tropical.  The award recognizes local citizens from around the world for their tireless efforts to save wildlife, protect habitats, and educate communities.   

The Corps of Community Park Guards is a joint initiative, begun in 2009, of the Fundación Cordillera Tropical, CELEC EP Unidad de Negocio Hidropaute and the Ministry of Environment to strengthen the protection of the valuable natural resources found in the Nudo del Azuay region of southern Ecuador.  The Corp’s diverse team includes representatives from the communities of Pacallyacu, Colepato, Llavircay, Monay, Huangras, Dudas and Pindilig, in the eastern region of the Cañar Province.

Since 2010, Corps members have worked side-by-side with scientists at the Fundación Cordillera Tropical and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to monitor the health of the spectacled bear population in this region.  Fundación Cordillera Tropical staff provided over 2,500 hours of field training, including the deployment of state-of-the-art cameras in the forest to ¨photo-capture¨ individual bears.  Given that no two bears have the same ¨spectacles¨, scientists identify individual bears by the unique fur patterns on their face and chest.  Senior scientists report that the region supports a larger than expected number of resident and transitory bears, with more than twenty bears identified by 10 cameras. 

The community park guards celebrate winning this award with friends and colleagues.

Research about the habits of the spectacled bear is critical, for little is known about this elusive species.  Biologist Lucas Achig comments, ¨the spectacled bear is the largest carnivore in Ecuador and is disappearing rapidly.  Its survival increasingly depends on the actions of groups like the Corps of Park Guards to protect and study this species.¨

These conservation heroes have translated their field work and scientific findings into a local education program:  Don Oso Visits my School, with assistance from Fundación Cordillera Tropical staff. They have jointly trained more than 200 teachers throughout southern Ecuador’s bear territory, and directly implemented activities in seven local schools in 2012.

Since 2004, Disney has honored nearly 70 people around the world for their extraordinary conservation efforts.  Fundación Cordillera Tropical and the University of Wisconsin-Madison nominated this group for their efforts to protect and conserve the endangered spectacled bear.

The Don Oso Conservation Program represents a joint collaboration between scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA), the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, communities in the Nudo del Azuay, the Corps of Community Park guards, and the Fundación Cordillera Tropical. The Don Oso Conservation Program currently receives generous funding from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The Corps of Community Park guards currently receive funding from CELEC EP – Unidad de Negocio Hidropaute and the Paute River Watershed Conservation Fund (FONAPA). 

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