Posted: Sun 1st Oct 2023

Chester Zoo welcomes Oberon: A rare Andean Bear boosting vital breeding efforts

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Sunday, Oct 1st, 2023

A rare Andean bear named Oberon has just arrived at Chester Zoo as part of a special breeding programme aimed at protecting the incredible species.

The 10-year-old male bear, selected as the ideal genetic match for the resident 3-year-old female bear, Pacha, embarks on a hopeful journey to contribute to the conservation of his species.

Andean bears are known for their distinctive circular golden markings around their eyes and their unique adaptation to the challenging mountainous habitats of the Andes.

The species, made famous by the beloved children’s character Paddington Bear, is listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Experts estimate that fewer than 10,000 now remain due to deforestation, climate change, and conflict with humans.

Mike Jordan, Director of Animals and Plants at Chester Zoo, shares the excitement and significance of Oberon’s arrival. “Oberon hasn’t yet fathered any cubs, so his genetics could play an important role in the future of his species,” he notes. The plan is to slowly introduce him to Pacha, with hopes they will contribute a key new bloodline to the endangered species breeding programme.

The zoo’s involvement in the Andean Carnivore Conservation Programme in Bolivia, alongside local and international partners, underscores its commitment to protecting wild bears and their forest home.

The project, funded by various organisations, including the Whitley Fund For Nature and the Darwin Initiative, aims to ensure the peaceful coexistence of Andean bears and local communities in Bolivia.

Paul Bamford, Regional Field Programmes Manager, highlights the on-ground work in Bolivia since 2016 to understand how Andean bears navigate their changing landscape.

The zoo’s initiatives, including supporting the economic wellbeing of local communities and helping them generate income through sustainable initiatives, aim to mitigate conflict with bears and promote a harmonious coexistence.

As Oberon settles into his new home, exploring and acclimating, his presence marks a beacon of hope for the Andean bears’ future, echoing the collective efforts to safeguard this vulnerable species and their habitat for generations to come.

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