Beguiled by the mystery and grandeur of the ancient complex in the mountains, millions of tourists visit Machu Picchu every year. But it seems that humans are not the only ones to climb to the lofty peaks of the Incan citadel, as a bear has recently been filmed taking a saunter among the ruins and day-trippers.
The bear was spotted ambling down the terraces carved into the mountainside at the UNESCO World Heritage Site as tourists looked on and snapped shots of the incredible scene. The creature then disappeared into the lush rainforest that surrounds the remains of the Inca civilization.
While this may seem like an astonishingly lucky sight to witness, a recent report has revealed that the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is actually home to a healthy population of bears.
“It is amazing that this world famous location is also important habitat for Andean bears,” says Dr Isaac Goldstein, the coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Andean Bear Program, which recently surveyed the site, in a statement. “The results of the survey will help us to understand the needs of this species and how to manage Andean bears in this location.”
The Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is the only species of bear still surviving in South America, with a range stretching from Venezuela to Bolivia. Also known as the spectacled bear, they typically live in the montane forests and grasslands that coat the sides of the mighty Andes, roaming at altitudes of between 1,000 and 2,700 meters (3,300 and 8,900 feet). But over the centuries, their native range has become fragmented and their numbers have dropped to around 18,000 individuals.
That is why the discovery that the heavily visited site of Machu Picchu is home to such a healthy number of the secretive creatures has come as a bit of a surprise. Surveying the 368 square kilometers (142 square miles) that make up the site, researchers found evidence of the bears in over 95 percent of the area.
But even better, the survey found that the population living there is not an isolated group and is in fact part of a much larger population that's connected by the alpine grasslands around the region. This will allow conservationists and wildlife managers to maintain corridors that are vital for the bears to move around and survive in their lofty environment.