The Cola Bear
The cola bear, Ailuropoda cola (not to be confused with the Koala bear, Phascolarctos cinereus), is a species of bear found mainly in the highlands of the Andes, where his primary food, the coca plant, grows. A close relative to the Panda, the coca bear has a very specialzed diet, consisting almost exclusively of coca leaves, augmented by the occasional carcass.
Due to the destruction of their natural habitat, and intransigent coca farmers that shoot the animals on sight, the number of cola bears has been greatly reduced in the last half of the twentieth century. Today, the animals are considered endangered, and conservation areas have been put in place to protect the few remaining individuals. However, given the large amount of coca trees needed to sustain a fully grown bear, as well as their territorial and aggressive nature, these measures barely manage to save the bears from extinction. Luckily, in recent months, re-introduction programmes have found a rather peculiar sponsor.
The DEA has been cooperating with conservationists in South America to reintroduce the bear in regions that have become hotbeds of cocain production, in the hope that the animals will destroy the druglords' fields and lead the authorities to the criminals.
Whether or not this approach can be ethically justifiable (as mentioned above, the plan implies a large number of causalties for the bears if they do encounter coca farmers) remains a hot topic, but it has certainly attracted attention to the plight of this unique species. Let us hope attention will translate to action in the near future.