The Saint Louis Zoo had a second incident in the same month, where a 4-year-old Andean bear named Ben got out of its enclosure.
The incident happened on Thursday during open hours, and visitors were asked to go inside and stay there on lockdown until crews could locate the bear.
“Around 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23, Andean bear Ben once again got out of his outdoor habitat. The Zoo Animal Emergency Response protocol was implemented and various team members responded accordingly,” Saint Louis Zoo wrote on their website.
Fortunately, Ben didn’t cause any damage or injury to anyone and was simply darted and moved back to his indoor habitat. The lockdown was lifted after only lasting around 50 minutes.
“Ben got out by meddling with the steel mesh in just the right spot of the outdoor habitat, causing a cable to give way, which then allowed him to work his way out,” the zoo said.
Here are pictures of Ben, the 4-year-old Andean Bear who has now escaped his @STLZoo enclosure twice this month, including today.
— Alex Gaul (@AlexGaulTV) February 23, 2023
The zoo director, Michael Macek, stated that this was only the second time in the history of the habitat that a bear had escaped. The first time Ben escaped, they reconstructed his enclosure, however, the bear was still able to escape.
Saint Louis Zoo said, “Since then, team members made the habitat even more secure by adding stainless steel cargo clips rated at 450 pounds tensile strength, yet that wasn’t enough for Ben.”
He reassured the public that the zoo regularly reviews all its habitats and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which inspects them regularly.
Andean bears live in a variety of habitats, ranging from deserts to forests. They have white or yellow fur rings around their eyes, which can look like glasses. These markings are unique to each bear, just like our fingerprints. #BearConservation pic.twitter.com/9ETiCK4e77
— Saint Louis Zoo (@stlzoo) February 21, 2023
Ben will not be let out again until the zoo is sure that he cannot get through the mesh anymore.
“At four years old, we know Ben is young and adventurous. Our team will continue to work collaboratively and consult with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Bear Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) to investigate other alternative ways to secure the habitat,” the zoo said.
Andean bears, also known as spectacled bears, are a species of bear found primarily in the Andes Mountains of South America. They are the only bear species native to South America and are considered the largest land predator on the continent.
Andean bears are known for their distinctive facial markings, which include a white or beige band across their face that gives them the appearance of wearing glasses. They have shaggy fur that is typically black or dark brown, although some individuals may have lighter fur.
These bears are omnivores and have a diet that includes fruits, plants, and animals such as rodents, insects, and small mammals. They are excellent climbers and are often found in trees foraging for food.
Andean bears are a vulnerable species and face threats such as habitat loss, hunting, and conflict with humans. Conservation efforts are underway to protect these bears, and they are currently listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Andean bears have also been popularized by the character Paddington Bear, a fictional character in children’s literature who was found at Paddington Station in London after arriving from “darkest Peru.” The character is based on the real-life experiences of Michael Bond, who encountered a bear in London’s Paddington Station in the 1950s.