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Andean Bear Cubs Have Their Names, Will Debut May 22
May 2010

One week and nearly 5,000 votes after the opened the online polls to the public to name the male and female Andean bear cubs, we've got two winners: Chaska, pronounced Chas'-kuh, for the female and Bernardo for the male! 

Animal keepers and the embassies of Peru and Venezuela submitted names for the online poll that are of Andean or South American derivation. Each name held significant meaning special to the bears or the region in which they are found. Dennis Kelly, the Zoo's director, along with representatives from the embassies of Peru and Venezuela, announced the names on May 19 in a special naming ceremony. See photos.

When the polls closed, Chaska had edged out Paqarina by merely 72 votes (garnering 1,799 votes, or 37 percent of the total). Chaska, meaning the “dawn star,” was submitted by the Embassy of Peru. Bernardo, Spanish for “brave like a bear,” won by a much larger margin, claiming 2,064 votes, 42 percent of the total . Bernardo was submitted by the Andean bear keepers for the poll but coincidentally is also the name of the Ambassador of Venezuela, Bernardo Alvarez.

The cubs, their mother, Billie Jean, their father, Nikki, and another older female, Bandit, live at the Zoo’s Andean bear exhibit in the Beaver Valley section of the Zoo. Due to construction on the Zoo’s seal and sea lion exhibit, Beaver Valley is closed to the public during the week but the Andean bear exhibit will be open to the public on weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., beginning May 22.