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If you go down to the zoo today...

Date: 28 Mar 2011

Andean bear are sure of a big surprise.

Spook, the Andean bear has been joined by new female, Alice, from South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Cumbria.

Alice (aged 12) arrived in Belfast two weeks ago and has now settled in to her new home with Spook (aged 17).

Zoo Curator, Andrew Hope is delighted “Alice has settled in very well. She seems to be very playful and I think Spook is glad to have a new partner to share his enclosure with. We have high hopes for their future.”

Andean bears are also known as spectacled bears due to the spectacle like markings around their eyes. Andean bears are found on the slopes of the Andes mountains, stretching from Venezuela to Peru and are facing high risk of extinction in the wild, as Zoo manager Mark Challis explains;

“The reasons for the rapid decline of Andean bears in the wild are varied, including habitat destruction and hunting. It is very special to have two of these wonderful bears at Belfast and it is very exciting to know that we will hopefully one day play a huge role in their conservation.”

Andean bears are part of a global collaborative zoo breeding programme and with the arrival of Alice, keepers hope to hear the pitter patter of little paws.