_Julie Larsen Maher_1638_Andean Bear and Cub_QZ_05 01 17
Photo by Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

I’ve never been to the Queens Zoo. Now may be a good time to explore it!

An Andean bear cub (Tremarctos ornatus) born over the winter at WCS’s (Wildlife Conservation Society) Queens Zoo has made his public debut. This is the first Andean bear born in New York City.

The male cub was born over the winter to mother, Nicole (four), and father, Bouba (six). Now weighing 25lbs, he is ready to venture into the zoo’s bear habitat with his mom to start exploring.

The cub has not yet been named. Exhibit times will vary until the cub becomes fully acclimated to its outdoor exhibit.

Andean bears are the only bear species native to South America. They are also known as spectacled bears due to the markings on their faces that sometimes resemble glasses. They have characteristically short faces and are relatively small in comparison to some other bear species. As adults, males weigh between 250-350 pounds while adult females rarely exceed 200 pounds.

The Queens Zoo is breeding Andean bears as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), 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).

The cub’s sire, Bouba, came to Queens from a zoo in France to breed with Nicole, who was born at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC and came to the Queens Zoo in 2015. This is the first cub born to this pair. There are currently only 42 bears in AZA- accredited zoos and only six potentially viable breeding pairs in the SSP population.  Queens Zoo Director and Animal Curator Scott Silver leads the national breeding program as the SSP coordinator.

Said Silver: “This is a significant birth for the Queens Zoo and the Andean bear SSP breeding program. This little guy may be adorable, but more importantly he reminds us of what we stand to lose when a species is in danger of extinction. We are excited to introduce the cub to New York and to share the work WCS and our partners are doing to save Andean bears and many other species in the wild.”

Andean bears are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Estimates indicate that there are fewer than 18,000 remaining in the wild.

The Wildlife Conservation Society has been working to study and conserve Andean bears in their South American range since 1977. In 2010, WCS and partners formed the Andean Bear Conservation Alliance which funds conservation efforts and supports knowledge sharing to improve monitoring techniques in the field.


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