After a few months snuggled away with its mum, the first Andean bear cub to be born on the British mainland has come out to play.
The cub, currently yet to be sexed or named, was born in January at Chester Zoo to new mum Lima and dad Bernardo. Females with young remain in their den until their cubs have opened their eyes and begun to walk.
The Andean bear was brought to the spotlight with the arrival of one Paddington Bear from South America. They’re also known as spectacled bears, and it’s not hard to see why with the markings so prominent on the new arrival. They can weigh up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds), and in the wild spend most of their time in trees. Spectacled bears eat a lot less meat than other bears –about 5 per cent of their diet – with more common food including cactus, fruit, honey, plant bulbs and young palm leaves.
The cub is one of the newest members of a threatened species. These bears are found in Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, and they’re the only bears living on the continent. There hasn’t been an estimate of their wild population for a decade – when it was put at 20,000 bears – and scientists reckon it’s gone down since then. The bears’ habitat is being lost, and they are illegally killed by local people to stop them raiding livestock and crops
Chester Zoo field conservationists are working on a project in Bolivia to better understand the species and its relationship with people.
Mike Jordan, collections director at the zoo, said:
“Scientists and conservation experts from Chester Zoo are currently working with Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) to study bear-human conflict for the very first time in an area of dry forest in Bolivia.
“Given the ever increasing threats to its long-term survival, we must take action for the Andean bear and further its conservation and this is a hugely important first step.”
Dad Bernardo was moved to Chester in 2014 from Tulsa Zoo in the US. It’s rare for a zoo animal to make the move across the pond, but ‘Bernie’ has brought new bloodlines and genes to the European Andean bear population.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at the zoo, said:
“This is a momentous breeding success for us. To become the first zoo in mainland Great Britain to ever breed the species is an amazing achievement – one that has taken years of careful planning, dedication and skill.
“Andean bears are still something of mystery to conservationists and not a huge amount is known about them. But by working closely with the bears here, breaking new ground with this breeding, we’re constantly learning about this amazing species. We’re able to relay much of this information to our field conservation teams and partners in the wild, and it’s information that could very important in terms of ensuring a long-term future for the bears.”
Watch the cub explore its home in this adorable video: