New York's 1st-ever Andean bear cub makes debut at Queens Zoo

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Wildlife Conservation Society's Queens Zoo (WABC)

The first-ever Andean bear born in New York City just made its debut at the Queens Zoo.

It is part of an effort by the Wildlife Conservation Society to save Andean bears in the wild.

Weighing 25 pounds, the cub was born to mother Nicole and father Bouba over the winter. He is now ready to venture into the zoos's bear habitat with his mom to start exploring.

Bouba came to Queens from a zoo in France to breed with Nicole, who was born at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C and came to the Queens Zoo in 2015. The cub is the first cub born to this pair and has not yet been named.

The Queens Zoo is breeding Andean bears as a part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program designed to enhance the genetic viability and demographic stability of animal population in zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. There are currently only 42 bears in accredited zoos, and only six potentially viable breeding pairs in the population.

Queens Zoo Director and Animal Curator Scott Silver leads the national breeding program as the SSP coordinator.

"This is a significant birth for the Queens Zoo and the Andean bear SSP breeding program," he said. "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," Silver said. "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 the only bears native to South America, and they are also known as speculated 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.

Andean bears are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It is estimated there are fewer than 18,000 remaining in the wild.

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