Belfast Zoo is celebrating the first Andean bear birth in more than 20 years.
The zoo team can ‘bear-ly’ contain their excitement with the arrival of the little bear cub.
The cub’s dad, Spook, was born at Belfast Zoo on July 30, 1994 and was joined by female, Alice, in 2010 as part of the European breeding programme.
Zoo curator, Julie Mansell, explained: “We are over the moon with the arrival of the cub, especially the members of the team who fondly remember when dad, Spook, was born more than 20 years ago.
“Spook lived here with his parents, Omero and Minky, until they passed away of old age in 2010. As part of the European breeding programme, we welcomed Alice from South Lakes Wild Animal Park in 2010.
“We didn’t have high hopes as Alice and Spook appeared to ‘bear-ly’ tolerate each other. You can therefore imagine our delight when we spotted signs of Alice’s pregnancy last year. Andean bears give birth in dens and, here at the zoo, Alice was given the privacy of her own den for the later stages of pregnancy.
“On February 6 keepers discovered that a cub had arrived safely. Alice has since had her paws full with her bundle of joy, as cubs remain in the den with their mother for the first few months. On 31 May the zoo vet carried out some health checks on the cub and discovered that the latest arrival is a girl and she has since been named Lola!”
Andean bears live in the isolated cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes Mountains, stretching Venezuela to Peru. There are eight species of bear in the world but the Andean bear is the only one found in South America. These bears are also known as spectacled bears due to the light coloured markings around their eyes, which can look like spectacles against the rest of the bear’s dark fur. No two bears have the same markings which makes every bear unique! Andean bears are under increasing threat due to habitat destruction and fragmentation, caused by agriculture. They are also hunted for meat and for their supposed medicinal properties.
Julie added: “Lola is now old enough to leave the den and start to explore. Already Lola is learning from Alice and climbing the rocks, trying new foods and getting up to mischief. Keepers have been letting Alice and Lola out into their enclosure for a little while every day. The best time to see the family is between 10am and 2pm daily but visitors should be aware that, as Lola is still young, she will not be visible at all times, especially in the rain!”