The eight-week-old Andean bear cubs at the Smithsonian's National Zoo's received a clean bill of health today from the Zoo veterinarians. The veterinary team performed a complete physical exam Feb. 20, which included listening to the cubs' hearts and lungs; checking their mouth, eyes, legs, feet and genital area; and feeling their bellies. The cubs also received the first in a series of routine vaccines. Although it is difficult to determine the sex at such a young age when genitalia have not fully developed, the cubs appear to be male and female. The larger cub weighs 10.1 pounds; the smaller weighs 9.2 pounds.
The cubs were born Dec. 14 and have spent the past two months bonding with their mother, Billie Jean, in a den near the American Trail exhibit. Animal care staff and the public have had the opportunity to watch Billie Jean give birth, nurture her cubs and watch them play and grow via the live Andean Bear Cub Cam on the Zoo's website. The information gathered from watching their behavior will be shared with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for the benefit of other institutions that exhibit and want to breed this species. The family's public debut will take place later this spring.
Andean bears—also known as spectacled bears—are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, and it is estimated that there are only 2,000 left in their natural habitat.
Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo