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Phoenix Zoo's Andean Bear Cub is a Boy!

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The Phoenix Zoo's Andean Bear cub, born in January, recently had its first vet check-up. After patiently waiting for more than three months, they received the exciting news that it's a boy! Rio, the 17-year-old mother, is doing an excellent job raising her young cub, who will soon be named. Andean Bears are a small, arboreal, largely vegetarian bear from the Andes Mountains in South America. They're also called Spectacled Bears due to the white markings on their faces which make them look as if they are wearing glasses. 

The Andean Bear is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with an estimated 2000-2400 left in the wild. There are approximately 56 Andean bears at 33 different AZA zoos throughout North America who are a part of the Andean bear Species Survival Plan. All work toward the future of this species through managed breeding. The Phoenix Zoo is a part of that SSP and the two bears housed there -- the male Rizzaro, and the female, Rio --were selected for breeding by the SSP. Rizzaro has only been at the Phoenix Zoo since the fall of 2011, but he and Rio hit it off right away! This cub is the 5th cub that has been born and survived in the last six years.

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Photo Credit: Photo 1: Bridget Tighe, All other photos: Christina Goulart 

Recently, for the first time in the presence of the keepers Rio let go of the cub, stepped away, and allowed the cub to be briefly on its own. As mom got a little snack, keepers shot a short video. While Rio quickly returned to her baby, this marks a huge moment in the cub's development. Watch those first baby steps below: 

This next video was the first glimpse keepers got of the newborn cub. About half way through you'll see the little guy yawn:

Here he is at 10 weeks old with mom behind the scenes. Rio cradles the cub in one paw as she gets some of her favored food (fish and pears).

See more pictures after the fold:

Rio is just now emerging from her off-exhibit den into other parts of her night house for short periods of time. It could even be several more weeks before Rio and her cub decide it is time to explore their outdoor habitat. Zoo staff is taking cues from Rio as to when she feels ready and comfortable to be seen by the public.

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