Queens Zoo welcomes Andean bear cubs Benny and Brienne

Andean bear cubs Benny and Brienne are ready for their spotlight at the Queens Zoo.   Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher

Andean bears are also known as “spectacled” bears because of the eyeglasses-like markings on their faces.

Andean bear cubs Benny and Brienne are ready for their spotlight at the Queens Zoo.  
Andean bear cubs Benny and Brienne are ready for their spotlight at the Queens Zoo.   Photo Credit: Tavern 29

The Queens Zoo family has grown by two.

Andean bears Nicole and Bouba, who had their first cub in May 2017, brought two more fluffy babies into the world in January, and now the duo is ready for their spotlight, the Wildlife Conservation Society says.

Named Brienne and Benny by zoo staff, the cubs have been bonding with their mama bear for several weeks but have begun to venture outside.

Andean bears, which are also known as "spectacled" bears because of the eyeglasses-like markings on their faces, are comparatively smaller than other bear species, weighing about 200 to 350 pounds, depending on the sex.

Andean bear Nicole and her cubs, Benny and Brienne, at the Queens Zoo.
Andean bear Nicole and her cubs, Benny and Brienne, at the Queens Zoo. Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher

However, as the only bear species native to South America, they are threatened with extinction with fewer than 18,000 remaining in the wild, the WCS says.

Brienne and Benny’s birth is only the second time Andean bears have been born in New York City.

“These little cubs are tremendous ambassadors for their species,” Scott Silver, Queens Zoo director, said in a statement. “Andean bears are rarely seen in the wild so it’s extremely special to have an opportunity to watch cubs grow. Guests will also learn about our efforts to protect Andean bears in the wild.” 

The Queens Zoo is breeding the bears as part of the Species Survival Plan created by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. There are only 39 Andean bears in AZA-accredited zoos, with only six potentially viable breeding pairs.

If you go: Know that the time the cubs spend in the outdoor habitat will vary until they are fully acclimated.

The zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week and from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends.

Admission is $9.95 for adults and $6.95 for children.

Shaye Weaver