Andean Bears to Make Zoo Debut - NBC4 Washington

Andean Bears to Make Zoo Debut

Cubs Curt and Nicole were born in December



    Andean Bear Cubs Make Zoo Debut

    Andean bear cubs met the media at the Smithsonian's National Zoo recently. The little cubs, named Curt and Nicole, were born to Billie Jean. (Published Tuesday, May 7, 2013)

    Two bear cubs born in December met the media Tuesday at the Smithsonian's National Zoo.

    The little cubs, named Curt and Nicole, were born to Billie Jean. After the bears' photo-op today, the public will be allowed to see the bears starting Saturday.

    Curt and Nicole are the second litter of cubs born at the zoo since 2010, and one of only three litters born in North American zoos in the past six years, the Smithsonian said in a press release.

    “Only two zoos in the United States have Andean bear cubs right now, and we are very lucky to be one of them,” said Craig Saffoe, curator of Andean bears, in the statement. “It’s a rare and special treat for our visitors to be able to see a mother with two cubs.”

    Before the bears could move into the yard for public view, keepers had to baby-proof their habitat. The baby bears love to climb, and so hay and other materials were added to keep the space safe, according to the Zoo's website.

    But Mom Billie Jean has been on cub-safety detail as well. Earlier this spring, the Zoo reported, she was careful to keep her young cubs from venturing into the yard until she felt they were ready.

    Andean Bears are listed on the vulnerable species list. Only about 2,000 are left in their natural habitat.