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2 Andean Bear Cubs Are Ready to Make Their Debut at Queens Zoo

2 Andean Bear Cubs Are Ready to Make Their Debut at Queens Zoo

Andean bears are rarely seen in the wild, so Brienne and Benny will provide guests with a special opportunity to see them up close.

In January, the Queens Zoo welcomed two special guests: two Andean bear cubs named Brienne and Benny. After spending weeks in the den bonding with their mother Nicole, the cubs are ready to make their debut and delight guests with their unique markings. Their time in their outdoor habitat will vary until they become fully accustomed to it. While watching Brienne and Benny, guests will be able to learn about the zoo’s efforts to protect Andean bears in the wild.

Andean bears are the only bear species native to South America. They are sometimes called spectacled bears because their markings resemble eyeglasses, like the opposite of Panda bear markings. Males only weigh 250-350 pounds, much smaller than polar bears, for example, who can weigh 1,000 pounds. 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 Queens Zoo breeds these bears as part of the Special Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperation between zoos to enhance the genetic viability and demographic stability of animals in zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

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There are only 39 Andean Bears in AZA-accredited zoos and only six potentially viable breeding pairs, which makes Brienne and Benny unique offspring. Their father, Bouba, came from the Bioparc de Doue la Fontainein in France to breed with Nicole. Nicole came to the Queens Zoo in 2015 and has had a previous set of cubs with Bouba as well. Benny and Brienne were two of only four Andean bear cubs to be born at AZA-accredited zoos worldwide in the past year.

“These little cubs are tremendous ambassadors for their species,” said Scott Silver, Queens Zoo Director. “It’s extremely special to have an opportunity to watch cubs grow.”

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