29 Dec 2016

Our thrill-seeking Andean bear cub – the first to be born in mainland Britain – got a little bit stuck to begin with but mum, Lima, was on hand to help her little one back down.Our zookeepers took to social media to share the charming images of the young cub scaling the treetops – a feat that took multiple attempts.

Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at Chester Zoo, said:

Mum Lima really has her paws full with her excitable new cub. It’s gaining more and more confidence with every passing day and is wasting little time getting to know its surroundings – including some of the very tallest trees.Although the little one has perfected the art of climbing up trees, it hasn’t quite perfected how to get back down again and occasionally relies on mum to demonstrate how it’s done and safely guide it back down. Andean bear cubs learn very quickly though and we’re sure it won’t be long until this adventurous newcomer completely develops its head for dizzying heights.

We are hailing the arrival of the new cub, which has yet to be sexed or named, as “hugely significant” given how threatened the species is.

The Andean bear is the only living bear to inhabit South America. They are found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia but their numbers are in decline as a result of habitat loss and conflict with humans. As a result, the species is listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Working closely with the bears at the zoo, breaking new ground in achieving a first ever breeding in mainland Britain, our zoo experts are learning more about the species and how they live and are relaying information to field conservation teams and partners in the wild.

Our conservationist scientists are also working with Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) to study bear-human conflict for the very first time in an area of dry forest in Bolivia.

Andean bear facts

  • The cub was born overnight on 11 January to first time mum Lima (5) who kept her precious new arrival tucked safely away in their den for several months
  • The Andean bear is listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • Population estimates for the species were last made a decade ago, placing wild numbers at just 20,000
  • The main threat to the animal is habitat loss, with some 30% of the forests that contain sufficient food having disappeared in the past 20 years. Hundreds of bears are also illegally killed by farmers and business owners every year, largely to prevent them raiding crops and livestock – believed to be a result of climate change which has created a food shortage in the bears’ natural habitat
  • Chester Zoo field conservationist, Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo, who leads the project in Bolivia, was recently celebrated at the prestigious Whitley Awards, often referred to as the Green Oscars
  • The Andean bear is Made famous in the UK through the classic children’s character Paddington Bear