The Queens Zoo animal care staff have named the cubs Brienne and Benny and will continue to monitor their health and development.
“These little cubs are tremendous ambassadors for their species,” said Scott Silver, Queens Zoo Director. “Andean bears are rarely seen in the wild so it’s extremely special to have an opportunity to watch cubs grow. Guests will also learn about our efforts to protect Andean bears in the wild.”
Andean bears are the only bear species native to South America. They’ve been nicknamed the “spectacled bears” because of markings on their face that sometimes look like glasses.
The cubs were born to parents Nicole, aged six, and Bouba, aged eight, in January.
Bouba came to Queens from Bioparc de Doue la Fontainein in France to breed with Nicole, who was born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC and came to the Queens Zoo in 2015. This is the second time the pair has produced offspring at the Queens Zoo, and these cubs were two of only four Andean bears born in zoos worldwide in the past year.
After spending a few weeks in a den bonding with their mother, the cubs have now started venturing out into the outdoor exhibit. The amount of time the cubs spend in the exhibit each day will vary until they become acclimated to it.
Andean bears have characteristically short faces and are relatively small in comparison to some other bear species. As adults, males weigh between 250 to 350 pounds while adult females rarely exceed 200 pounds.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Andean bears are classified as vulnerable. Estimates indicate that there are fewer than 18,000 remaining in the wild.
The Queens Zoo is breeding Andean bears as part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program designed to enhance the genetic viability and demographic stability of animal populations in zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
There are currently only 39 Andean bears in AZA-accredited zoos and only six potentially viable breeding pairs in the SSP population.
(photos by Julie Larsen Maher)