Andean bear leaving Phoenix Zoo for new habitat in Nashville

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- An Andean bear born at the Phoenix Zoo will soon move to a new home in Tennessee.

The Phoenix Zoo is inviting the public to celebrate Luka this Saturday, before he moves to a new Andean bear habitat at the Nashville Zoo.

Phoenix Zoo staff began the process of separating Luka from his mother, Rio, earlier this month after observing behavioral signs that he had reached sexual maturity. They say the process is similar to how a grown cub would leave its mother in the wild to live on its own.

Moving Luka to a different zoo will provide the Phoenix Zoo's adult Andean bears, Rio and Rizzaro, with the opportunity to breed again.

The Andean Bear Species Survival Plan recommended that Luka, who was born in January 2013, be transferred to Nashville. He will live in a brand new habitat with a young female bear from the National Zoo.

Luka will not leave Phoenix until the habitat is completed, but Phoenix Zoo staff will move him to an area not accessible by the public to prepare him for the move.

Saturday's celebration will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will begin with special enrichment for Luka at 11 a.m., followed by a zookeeper talk at 1 p.m. Educational activities will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Plans could change without notice based on what is best for Luka and the other bears.

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