7 Nov 2014
Two-year-old spectacled bear Lima takes a stroll around her new enclosure at Chester Zoo.

Two-year-old Lima has moved from a zoo in northern France after experts carefully matched her with Chester’s male bear, Bernardo.

Spectacled bears are vulnerable to extinction in the wild and so staff at the zoo hope the pair will eventually go on to produce cubs, adding new blood to the insurance population living in zoos around the world.

The bears, which are found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, are threatened by habitat loss; persecuted by local farmers for killing cattle and destroying crops and hunted for their meat, skin, bones, fat and claws. It is believed that only 20,000 now remain in the wild.

In 2013 the zoo funded a project in Peru investigating the foraging behaviour of spectacled bears. The project ultimately aims to ensure the conservation of the species in the dry forest habitat of northern Peru through scientific research and education, while working collaboratively with private land owners and rural communities to improve their social and economic wellbeing.

The arrival of Lima brings the number of spectacled bears living at the zoo to three.

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Spectacled bear facts

  • Spectacled bears get their name from the white or light rings of fur around their eyes, which can look like glasses (spectacles)
  • Spectacled bears are found in several areas of northern and western South America, including western Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and western Bolivia
  • They are sometimes referred to as Andean bears, after the Andes mountains where some individuals are found
  • They are found in various habitats within the Andes Mountains, including desert-scrub, ‘Paramo’ or high altitude grasslands and lush, misty cloud forests, ranging in elevation from 250 to 4,750 m
  • Males can grow up to 40% larger than females. Their head-body length ranges from 1.2 – 2 metres
  • Females weigh up to 84kg, males up to about 150kg
  • Spectacled bears are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • There are only about 20,000 left in the wild
  • The main threats to the species are habitat fragmentation and destruction caused by livestock farming and logging is a major threat to this species. Spectacled bears are also persecuted by local farmers for killing cattle and destroying maize crops. Habitat fragmentation continues to bring bears and humans into closer proximity, leading to increased human-bear conflict
  • Though the hunting of spectacled bears is illegal, the species is still poached for its meat, skin, bones, fat and claws, which are all in demand locally. The gall bladders are occasionally marketed, being of value in traditional oriental medicine and can fetch a high price on the international market
  • Very little is known about these bears in the wild, as they are shy and tend to avoid humans, making them hard to find for researchers to study
  • Because of their tropical native climate, Andean bears do not hibernate and are active year-round
  • Chester Zoo’s new female spectacled Lima was born on Jan 12, 2012
  • Lima has moved to Chester from Cerza Zoo in Lisieux, France as part of a breeding programme for the species
  • Chester Zoo is already home to male spectacled bear Bernardo and female Franka
  • Anyone who’s read the children’s stories about Paddington Bear will know he came from deepest darkest Peru. It means he was a spectacled bear because no other types of bear come from South America
Male spectacled bear Bernardo enjoying the view from a tree in the enclosure.