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National Zoo celebrates birth of Andean bear cubs

Andean bear Brienne gave birth to two cubs Nov. 15.

WASHINGTON — Two Andean bears at the Smithsonian's National Zoo are now first-time parents! The cubs were born Nov. 15 to 3-year-old mother Brienne and 9-year-old father Quito.

Keepers at the zoo said the first cub was born around 4 p.m. and the second was born around 8:30 p.m. Staff is monitoring the mother and her cubs via the Andean Bear Cub Cam on the zoo's website, and allowing Brienne to care for her new babies without interference. 

Keepers report that Brienne has been attentively grooming her cubs and encouraging them to nurse. Both are active and vocal, and staff is cautiously optimistic that they will thrive. These cubs are the fourth litter born at the Zoo since 2010. It will be two-to-three months before keepers and veterinarians perform an exam and determine the cubs’ sexes. They will make their public debut in early spring, after they turn 3 months old, the zoo said. 

“For a new couple like Brienne and Quito, it is great to see all of the management, science and time that we have put into this species culminate in such a great way,” said Sara Colandrea, National Zoo animal keeper and North American Andean bear studbook keeper and Species Survival Plan (SSP) coordinator. “These cubs are extremely important to the SSP demographically and genetically since Quito’s genes are new to the North American population. We’re looking forward to watching Brienne navigate motherhood and, of course, all the cute antics we’re bound to see from little bear cubs!”

There are just under 40 Andean bears in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ SSP. Brienne arrived at the National Zoo in D.C. back in 2020 from the Queens Zoo in New York. Quinto arrived in 2017 from Zoo Duisburg in Germany.

It is estimated that there are only 2,000 of the bears left in the wild. They are South America’s only bear species, and as their name suggests, they live in the Andes mountain range from western Venezuela south to Bolivia, with sightings reported from eastern Panama and extreme northern Argentina.

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