Balu was first spotted in the province of Inquisivi in a small town called Licoma by one of the Inti Wara Yassi volunteers in late 2006. At this time it is thought that he was around 3 months old, his mother was most likely killed either so that Balu could be taken for sale or just for sport and Balu might have been the unknown side effect. Whatever the reason we do know that Balu was taken to be sold on the black market to either a circus or private owner. Our volunteer managed to snap a few photos while he was in Licoma and from there the IWY family tracked his movements all the way to El Alto outside of La Paz.
After much investigation was determined that indeed the campesino's that had Balu were intending to sell him to an unidentified buyer in Uruguay. At this point IWY contacted the police and after much more deliberation the police moved in to confiscate Balu almost 5 months after he was first spotted.
Balu arrived at Parque Machia in April of 2007. He is the Parks first bear and after much research it was decided that we could not find the proper location in Bolivia to rehabilitate and release him. Consequently, we then turned outside Bolivia, but ran into problems again when we were forbidden to transport Balu over country lines. These options exhausted we began to look at our own parks and although not ideal as the climate tends to be warmer than Balu's natural climate, Balu has remained in Parque Machia. He spent many years being walked and cared for by a Bolivian volunteer, Edwin who has recently left. Balu requires two volunteers (for a minimum of one month) and spends his days walking, swimming, eating and napping.
We are still trying to find a permanent home for Balu in his natural environment.
The Spectacled Bear
Also known as the Andean Bear and locally as Ukuko, Jukumari, or Ukumari, is a small species of bear native to South America. It has black fur with a distinctive beige colored marking across its face and chest. Males can weigh up to 150kg and females 60kg. They are found in several areas of northern and western South America. Including Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia, NW Argentina and S. Panamá. Spectacled Bears are the only species of bear native to South America, and the only surviving member of short nosed bears, next to the giant panda, of which the spectacled bear is the closest living relative. They are the most endangered species of bear in the world. Their survival has depended mainly on their ability to climb even the highest trees of the Andes and Amazonian rainforests.