Hello, Luka! Andean bear cub makes his debut at the Phoenix Zoo


by Tami Hoey


Posted on July 16, 2013 at 11:52 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 17 at 12:03 PM

PHOENIX -- After seven months of waiting, The Phoenix Zoo's Andean bear cub made his long-awaited debut!

New cub Luka and mama bear Rio appeared together in publicTuesday for the first time since Luka's birth on Jan. 3. Both seemed comfortable with all the attention they were getting.

Luka also got a cool surprise as he emerged from his den. A small kiddie pool filled with ice was waiting for him in the exhibit. "He's enjoying a bucket of ice," says Rebecca Benham of the Phoenix Zoo. "It's one of his favorite things."

Luka just got his name earlier this summer. Last month, the zoo staff asked for the public's help choosing  a name for the cub. Voters could pick from a selection of four potential names chosen by the staff.

Folks voted on Facebook, Google+, Instagram and through a web survey, and the name "Luka" came out on top with more than 1,500 votes!

Rio has previously given birth to three other cubs, but for unknown reasons, they didn't live to be more than seven days old.

Rio’s latest cub is a significant development for the Andean bear population. Rio and Billie Jean, a bear at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., are the only Andean bears in North American zoos that have reproduced in the past six years.

Andean bears are a small, arboreal, largely vegetarian bear from the Andes Mountains in South America. They are the only species of bear native to South America and are also called spectacled bears due to the white markings on their faces, which make them look as if they are wearing glasses.

The Andean bear is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with an estimated 2,000 to 2,400 left in the wild.

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