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Lola, Belfast Zoo's bear necessity

Delight at birth of first Andean cub for 20 years

By Linda Stewart

Published 12/07/2016

Playful Lola was born earlier this year at Belfast Zoo after her parents were brought together by a European breeding programme
Playful Lola was born earlier this year at Belfast Zoo after her parents were brought together by a European breeding programme
Playful Lola was born earlier this year at Belfast Zoo after her parents were brought together by a European breeding programme

This curious bundle of fluff is the first Andean - or spectacled - bear to be born at Belfast Zoo for more than 20 years.

Lola, as she has been named, has emerged from the den where she lived with her mother for the first few months of life.

Her dad, Spook, was born at the zoo in 1994 and joined by female Alice in 2010 as part of the European breeding programme.

But for a while, it looked like the zoo would never hear the patter of tiny claws as Lola's parents did not exactly hit it off.

Zoo curator Julie Mansell said: "We are over the moon with the arrival of the cub, especially the members of the team who fondly remember when dad Spook was born more than 20 years ago. Spook lived here with his parents, Omero and Minky, until they passed away of old age in 2010. As part of the European breeding programme, we welcomed Alice from South Lakes Wild Animal Park in 2010.

"We didn't have high hopes as Alice and Spook appeared to barely tolerate each other. You can, therefore, imagine our delight when we spotted signs of Alice's pregnancy last year."

Alice had her own den for the later stages of pregnancy and in February keepers discovered that a cub had arrived.

"Alice has since had her paws full with her bundle of joy, as cubs remain in the den with their mother for the first few months," Julie said.

"On May 31, the zoo vet carried out some health checks on the cub and discovered that the latest arrival is a girl and she has since been named Lola."

Andean bears live in isolated cloud forests on the Andes Mountains and are also called spectacled bears. No two bears have the same facial markings.

They are under threat due to habitat destruction linked to agriculture. They are also hunted for meat and for their supposed medicinal properties.

Julie said: "Lola is now old enough to leave the den and start to explore. Already Lola is learning from Alice and climbing the rocks, trying new foods and getting up to mischief.

"Keepers have been letting Alice and Lola out into their enclosure for a little while every day.

"The best time to see the family is between 10am and 2pm daily, but visitors should be aware that, as Lola is still young, she will not be visible at all times, especially in the rain."

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