Andean bear cubs, Curt and Nicole, played in the rain for the first time in their new outdoor home. Before making their public debut Saturday May 11, the cubs got to know their space on a rainy Tuesday morning. Under the watchful eye of mother Billie Jean, the two cubs, born last December, took to the rocky walls and steep climbs. Staffer Craig Saffoe says this species has a particular fancy for heights and a flair for daring acrobatics that can sometimes leave visitors breathless.
“But I’ve never seen them fall,” says Saffoe. Curt and Nicole both took a few small tumbles as they tried out their mountaineering skills, but they seemed to be in good spirits bounding about the grass, tackling each other. Billie Jean was a bit less enthusiastic but still attentive.
The cubs were a big victory for the Zoo. Since 2005, only three litters of Andean bear cubs have survived longer than a week, two born to Billie Jean, and the mortality rate of Andean bear cubs in their first year is around 40 percent, according to the Zoo.
Saffoe says the cubs will likely come out around 10 each morning to play, but, just like kids at a park, he says, when the cubs start to crash, they’ll head back inside. The cubs first explored the enclosure in March after Billie Jean finally allowed them to leave the den. The Zoo staff then began baby-proofing the yard with extra hay bedding.
The cubs will make their debut just in time for Mother’s Day.