HAVE you heard the yarn about the Dorset explorers taking knitted bears into the rainforest?

With the backing of actor Stephen Fry, members of the Scientific Exploration Society, based in Shaftesbury, will be venturing high up into the Andes this year to help protect the rare spectacled bear.

And accompanying the adventurers will be hundreds of tiny knitted bears, which will be given to children after visits to the dentist.

Society member Shirley Critchley, of Lower Parkstone, said the campaign has been given a boost by Mr Fry, who has written a book about the species.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have had some support from Stephen Fry,” she said.

“Hopefully it will mean that even more people want to get involved and help protect these animals.”

Dorset-based Colonel John Blashford-Snell, who launched the Society in 1969 with colleagues, will lead the expedition.

He promised Mr Fry that he would help to save the species when he attended the launch of the comedian’s book, Rescuing the Spectacled Bear, more than a decade ago.

The colonel formerly lectured at Mr Fry’s school, Uppingham, when he was a schoolboy.

He hopes that by giving children the knitted bears, it will help youngsters learn to love the animals as they grow up.

But more help is needed to create the toys.

An earlier appeal for crafty volunteers printed in the Daily Echo has seen many more bears donated.

Shirley said: “We really need as much help as possible.”

A team from the Society will visit Yanachaga Chemillen National Park this summer.

If you can knit a bear for the appeal, email shirley.critchley1@btinternet.com