Nelson Institute partnership in Ecuador honored

December 18, 2012

The Corps of Community Park Guards, a collaboration between researchers in the Nelson Institute Carnivore Coexistence Lab at UW-Madison and the Ecuadorian conservation group Fundación Cordillera Tropical, has been recognized with a Disney Conservation Hero award from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF).

The award recognizes local citizens for their tireless efforts to save wildlife, protect habitats, and educate communities. Individuals are nominated by nonprofit environmental organizations and Association of Zoo and Aquariums facilities committed to field conservation programs. 

An Andean bear in Ecuador's Sangay National Park
An Andean bear in Sangay National Park.
Photo credit Fundación Cordillera Tropical.

The ten members of the Corps of Community Park Guards at Sangay National Park in Ecuador are responsible for patrolling Ecuador’s largest protected area on the eastern Andes.

This diverse team represents seven local communities and spends ten-hour field days monitoring camera traps designed to capture images of the elusive and locally endangered Andean bear, as well as regulating illegal activity in the park. 

As conservation educators, the team has trained 55 teachers in the use of an Andean bear workbook the team produced, and additionally reached 160 local school children in seven schools, inspiring conservation values and instilling a desire in their students to continue their education. 

In 2007, Nelson Institute associate professor and Carnivore Coexistence Lab founder Adrian Treves established a relationship with Fundacion Cordillera Tropical to expand research on the Andean bear. Becky Zug, an Environment and Resources Ph.D. candidate, joined the project later that year.

Since its creation, the team’s dedication has aided in the protection of 20,000 hectares of bear habitat, the identification of 24 bears in the area, and made education and research work possible.

Each Disney Conservation Hero award recipient and their nominating organization share a $1,000 award from DWCF. Since 2004, Disney has honored nearly 70 people around the world for their extraordinary conservation efforts.

Source: Walt Disney Company