Chester Zoo has announced the arrival of a rare 10-year-old male Andean bear, Oberon (affectionately known as Obe), as part of a vital breeding programme aimed at protecting this endangered species.
Obe, selected for his ideal genetic compatibility, has recently joined 3-year-old female bear Pacha at the zoo, raising hopes among scientists that the pair will soon produce cubs, thus contributing to the preservation of the Andean bear population.
The species gained global recognition through the beloved children's character Paddington Bear, who, while depicted in the books as hailing from a London train station, was originally from the fictional 'deepest, darkest Peru.'
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified Andean bears as vulnerable to extinction, citing concerns that they face a high risk of vanishing in the wild without immediate conservation measures.
The combined impacts of deforestation, climate change, and human conflict have led experts to estimate that fewer than 10,000 Andean bears remain.
Mike Jordan, Director Animals and Plants at Chester Zoo, expressed optimism about Obe's arrival: "Oberon has acclimated wonderfully to his new home in Chester, engaging in explorations, tree-climbing, and exploring the new environment's sights and scents."
Jordan highlighted the significance of Obe's genetics, underscoring that the bear is yet to sire any cubs, making his role in the breeding programme pivotal. The zoo intends to gradually introduce Obe to female Andean bear Pacha, hoping they will form a compatible pair and eventually contribute a valuable new bloodline to the endangered species breeding initiative.