Two cubs born to rare species of bear at National Zoo

Andean bear.
Andean bear. Photo credit Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian National Zoo

The Smithsonian National Zoo just got a little more crowded following the birth of two bear cubs to a bear named on the vulnerable species list, the zoo announced.

Two Andean bear cubs were born to Brienne, a 3-year-old female, and Quito, a 9-year-old male. The animals are both first-time parents, the zoo said. Since 2010, the cubs are the fourth litter born at the zoo.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that only 2,000 Andean bears are left in the wild, making the birth of the cubs significant, according to the zoo.

Both bear cubs are making themselves comfortable, with zookeepers saying they are “active and vocal” while being “cautiously optimistic” they will thrive at the zoo.

For the next two to three months, Brienne will raise her babies on her own. Then, they will be given a veterinary exam to have their sexes determined.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums species survival plan includes just under 40 bears that are studied to determine which ones are able to breed and help replenish the species.

The Andean bear calls South America home and is the continent’s only species of bear. They live in the Andes mountain range from Venezuela to Bolivia. They can grow up to 6 feet long, standing up to 4 feet high.

When they are in the wild, the Andean bear eats fruits and plants known as bromeliads, as well as small animals like birds and rodents.

The average lifespan for the bears in captivity is 20 years, but some have hit their early 30s. In the wild, it is unknown how long they can live.

Due to a delayed reproduction in the species, zookeepers did not know Brienne had become pregnant until at least autumn, after the bears mated in the spring, the release said.

So far, Brienne has stayed with her babies in her den, and they will not leave until at least early spring 2023 to ensure they are healthy.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian National Zoo