May 18, 2024


More than a dozen scientists are participating in National Geographic’s two-year expedition through the Amazon Basin. Among them is an unusual duo: Razmeri Pirko-Harkaya, a scientist who studies spectacled bears, and her dog Ukuku. The two first met at an animal shelter in Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire in the Peruvian Andes. Slender, strong and tenacious, the animal immediately reminded Pirko of herself, but even though her family had already expressed an interest in the dog, Pilko had to leave it at an animal shelter. was able to convince the administrator to protect her. She will soon be given the all-important task of protecting the Peruvian Amazon region.

“She’s going to be a hero,” Pirko promised at the time, naming the dog Ukuku. That’s how bears are called in Quechua, the language of her childhood. Upon arriving at her new home, she learned how to find bear scat on mountain trails. Piruco was drawn to the spectacled bear, who he spent his childhood in a village a few hours’ drive from Cusco, especially because there were so many stories and legends surrounding him.

Pirco currently works as a field biologist for the Peruvian nonprofit Conservacion Amazonica ACCA and as part of the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Amazonas Expedition. This research project also deals with the origins of the Amazon in the high mountains. At the top of the Andes, melting snow and clouds form the source of the world’s largest river system. Pirko believes the spectacled bear’s role in this complex ecosystem is important. After feeding on tree seeds in lowlands, spectacled bears tend to migrate long distances and breed in cooler, higher elevations in mountain ranges. In this way, they distribute seeds in the mountains and make an important contribution to forest conservation.

Pirko always knew tracking dogs were needed to research and protect bears. When Ukuku moved to the mountain station in 2023, he was already well prepared and he was on call 24 hours a day to track animals.Today, a Quechua biologist and his girlfriend heard the alarm that a bear had been caught in a camera trap. brave dogHer brave little dog is the first to track him day and night.

This article was created in collaboration with Rolex. The company has a long-standing partnership with the National Geographic Society, uncovering the ecological challenges that sustain our planet through research, stories, and expeditions.

Further reporting on our Amazon expedition will follow in the coming months.



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