Around 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7, a male Andean bear named Ben was discovered outside of its habitat in the River’s Edge. The Zoo Animal Emergency Response protocol was implemented and various team members responded accordingly. Thankfully, at approximately 9:40 a.m., the bear was secured near his habitat and staff were able to tranquilize and safely return him to the indoor holding area.
It’s important that we let you know that we have reviewed the evidence available from yesterday morning and we have no reason to believe that there was any human fault or tampering that led to the bear’s escape out of its outdoor habitat. Instead, it would appear that the very curious bear meddled with the steel mesh in just the right spot of the outdoor habitat, causing a cable to give way, which then allowed the bear to work his way out. Team members will continue to inspect this habitat and make decisions to make it even more secure than it is now. Additionally, team members are looking at any other similar habitats to see if any necessary steps are needed.
The years of experience with escape drills and training really paid off yesterday – given the situation, we couldn’t be more proud of the outcome.
Safety is our #1 goal – that of our animals, staff and guests. Thankfully, no animals, no staff and no guests were injured or harmed in any way. The incident that took place yesterday occurred outside of Zoo operating hours and was safely resolved before the Zoo opened to the public.
The bear received a full medical exam following the incident and he is doing just fine.
Ben came to the Saint Louis Zoo the summer of 2021 as a recommendation from the Andean Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), which manages a genetic reserve of this species in North America. The Andean bear is the only bear found in South America and considered vulnerable due to habitat loss and poaching threats. Currently, there are approximately 30 individuals in the SSP population.