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Thanks to the Daily Mail for this fascinating article, 1st December 2014

Old Macdonald is a very well read man (OK, well red when upset actually) but found this in the Daily Mail whilst studying Arsenal’s latest triumph.23862C6800000578-2855416-image-54_1417394410565

They’re bears all right, and they come from darkest Peru — but they’re very seldom found on Paddington Station wearing a luggage label that says: ‘Please look after this bear. Thank you.’
Spectacled bears seem to be specially equipped for hard stares of the kind that Aunt Lucy taught Paddington — the children’s favourite, based on them, who’s now a movie superstar. Their eyes tend to be surrounded by pale or gingerish markings that exaggerate the facial expression.
These marks vary — you can tell one individual bear from another once you get to know them — and they often take the appearance of lavish spectacles, so they look like a bearish Elton John or Edna Everage.
They’re the only species of bear in South America, and they’re found all over the Andes wherever wild places have been allowed to remain: a range that goes from Peru to Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and (just) into Argentina.
The corner that links Colombia, Ecuador and Peru is where the best habitat remains. And the best bears.
When Michael Bond wrote the first Paddington stories, he had Paddington stowing away from darkest Africa. On learning there are no bears in Africa, he shifted the action to darkest Peru and put Paddington’s Aunt Lucy — his only known relative other than an uncle who gave him his hat — in a Home for Retired Bears in Lima, from where she shipped Paddington to England.
What Bond would not have known is that, today, Peru’s real-life Paddingtons are in danger. Spectacled bears have been classified as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Hunters, poachers and habitat destruction mean their population has fallen to 3,000 from 20,000 or so just a few decades ago.
Which is a sad thing, for they are bears as eccentric as Paddington himself. They’re much more Teddy-like in appearance than the great bears from the north of our planet.


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