Andean bear cub gets new name

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Joseph Becker By Joseph Becker

PHOENIX -- The votes are in! The Phoenix Zoo has announced the new name for its Andean bear cub, born in January.

The winning name is "Luka".

Last month, the Zoo 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!

Zoo staff said mama bear Rio and her cub have been enjoying spending time together. While Luka is not yet ready for his official public debut, and the trail to their yard is still closed to the public, zoo officials say Luka has begun to explore the outside habitat.

While they did have access to outdoor areas from their nighthouse, the main habitat space is completely new territory for our young cub. It actually took a few days of trying before Rio was comfortable enough to leave the den with her cub.

When the day finally arrived that she and Luka first ventured outside, mom and cub always stayed close together and didn’t venture far from the f den.

Rio has previously given birth to three other cubs, but for unknown reasons they did not 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.