St. Louis, Mo (March 21, 2023) Saint Louis Zoo staff experts have consulted with members of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Andean Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), the AZA Bear Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Queens Zoo in New York to determine next steps with Andean bear Ben. The Saint Louis Zoo is partners with the AZA Andean Bear SSP, which is a conservation breeding program that manages a genetically healthy population of this endangered species in North American zoos. The AZA Bear TAG consists of bear expert advisors who help to identify, manage and support AZA’s cooperative animal care programs to support zoos that work with bears. Ben was born at and is on loan from the WCS’s Queens Zoo.
Even though the Andean bear habitat at the Saint Louis Zoo met all standards for this species set forth by the AZA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prior to the habitat’s opening in 2014, and has housed several bears successfully during that time, the SSP, the TAG, the WCS’s Queens Zoo, and the Saint Louis Zoo team focused on Ben’s specific and unique personality to help determine the best home for the young bear.
Together, the group agrees that it is in Ben’s best interest to transfer him to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. The Gladys Porter Zoo is an AZA-accredited zoo with a long history of working with Andean bears. Their Andean bear habitat that includes a moat rather than steel mesh outdoor habitat, which the group believes would be a more ideal environment for Ben.
“While we love Ben, and wish he could stay with us, our goal is to do what is best for him,” said Regina Mossotti, Vice President of Animal Care, Saint Louis Zoo. “I am so grateful for the excellent care provided to Ben by our Animal Care team here and everyone’s willingness to seek opportunities for Ben to thrive.”
Ben currently is residing in a non-public area of the Saint Louis Zoo that has both indoor and outdoor options, including a pool. Staff members are providing Ben with excellent care and fun enrichment opportunities while also using positive reinforcement training to help him become comfortable with his travel crate so that he has a smooth journey to his new home in Texas.
Currently, Andean bears are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable. This means that Andean bears face a high risk of extinction in the wild. Deforestation has caused a dramatic decline in the population of this species in recent years. Estimates suggest fewer than 18,000 bears now survive in the wild. This threat will only worsen in coming years as urban populations rapidly expand throughout the Andes-Amazon region. Zoos are working hard to help save this incredible species.
Recent photos of Ben are included below.
See related stories from Feb. 23 and Feb. 7.
About the Saint Louis Zoo
Home to over 16,000 animals, representing nearly 500 species, the Saint Louis Zoo is recognized worldwide for its innovative approaches to animal care and management, wildlife conservation, research, and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, the Saint Louis Zoo is the most-visited attraction in the region. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Saint Louis Zoo is part of an elite group of institutions that meet the highest standards in animal care as well as provide fun, safe and educational family experiences. The Saint Louis Zoo and the other AZA-accredited institutions collectively dedicate millions of dollars annually to support scientific research, conservation and education programs. For more information, visit stlzoo.org.