On November 15, The Smithsonian’s National Zoo welcomed two Andean bear cubs. This is the first successful breeding for the zoo of the Andean bears since 2014. Craig Saffoe, the curator of Andean bears at the zoo, said that this successful breeding showcases their effort to improve the numbers of the species. The cubs will not be visible to the public until spring.
The parents of the two cubs are Brienne, a three-year-old female bear and nine-year-old Quito. Brienne came from Queens Zoo in 2020 and Quito came to the Smithsonian in 2017 from Germany. The pair bred in March and early April. It wasn’t until late October that the staff confirmed her pregnancy with the ultrasound.
Sara Colandrea, an animal keeper at the zoo, is responsible for recommending bear breeding pairs. She studies their behaviors and personalities to create the best match. This bear matchmaker did well since we now have two Andean bear Cubs.
Andean Bears of South America
Andean bears are South American bears and are listed as vulnerable. You can find the bears in the Andes mountains around western Venezuela, Bolivia, Panama, and northern Argentina. It’s estimated that there are around 2,500-10,000 Andean bears and only 40 in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP).
The two thriving cubs bring hope for the future of the species. These two Andean bear cubs were successfully bred of demographically and genetically different bears. One grew up in Germany, and the other in Northern America.
Andean cubs weigh 10-18 ounces at birth and are born toothless and blind. Cubs take their first steps and open their eyes when they are four to six weeks old. The staff will also be able to determine their sex by then and give them their names. You can now watch live footage of the den with screaming bear cubs. Don’t worry! Screeching bear cubs means they are hungry and strong!