Spectacled Bear Debuts at Washington’s National Zoo

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Billie Jean, a three-year-old female spectacled bear, made her debut at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Weighing about 113 pounds and still growing, she is quite agile — climbing high in the new structures in her yard, the Zoo said in a news release.

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“The installation of the new climbing structures are part of the Zoo’s enrichment efforts to provide our animals with physically and mentally stimulating and challenging environments, offering them opportunities to utilize their natural behaviors and abilities. Specifically, spectacled bears spend a vast amount of time climbing in the wild,” the statement added.

The only bear native to South America, spectacled bears (sometimes called Andean bears) live in the Andes range and outlying mountain ranges, from western Venezuela south to Bolivia.

They are are named spectacled bears for the whitish rings that encircle their eyes, resembling eyeglasses.The whitish markings extend down to the throat and chest in a pattern unique to each bear, the Zoo said.

The National Zoo is now home to three spectacled bears, including a senior female (Bandit) and an adult male (Nikki). Eventually, Nikki may breed with Billie Jean, a pairing recommended by the Species Survival Plan for spectacled bears, the Zoo statement said.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo photos by Mehgan Murphy

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Changing Planet

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn