The first Andean Bear to be born in mainland Great Britain has emerged from its den at Chester Zoo.
The rare cub, which is yet to be sexed, arrived to parents Lima, age 5, and Bernardo, age 7, on January 11. After spending months snuggled away in its den, the cub has started to venture out and explore for the first time.
Made famous in the UK through the classic children’s character Paddington Bear, the Andean Bear is the only Bear to inhabit South America. They are found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
The species is listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Conservation experts from the zoo say the birth of this cub is especially significant given how threatened the species is.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at the zoo, said, “The cub was tiny when it was born but Lima is doing a fantastic job, particularly given that she’s a first-time mum, and the cub is developing quickly. Lima is keeping her new charge close and she certainly has her paws full. But even though she’s not letting it stray too from her side, we can already see that her cub has a real playful side."
“This is a momentous breeding success for us. To become the first zoo in mainland Great Britain to ever breed the species is an amazing achievement,” Rowlands said.
Little is known about Andean Bears in the wild. Information learned from the zoo birth will aid conservationists working to protect these Bears in South America.
Population estimates for the species were last made a decade ago, placing wild numbers at just 20,000. Conservationists are convinced that the Bears' numbers have decreased further, but are unsure how many remain in the wild.
The main threat to the Andean Bear is habitat loss, with some 30% of the forests that contain sufficient food disappearing in the past 20 years. Hundreds of Bears are also illegally killed by farmers and business owners every year, largely to prevent them from raiding crops and livestock.
Chester Zoo works with scientists in Bolivia to study Bear-human conflict.
See more photos of the cub below.