Two Andean bear cubs were born in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 15, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute announced. It's considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with an estimated 2,000 Andean bears, also known as spectacled bears, left in the wild, making the birth of these cubs even more significant.
The zoo said the cubs were born to first-time parents, a 3-year-old female named Brienne and a 9-year-old male named Quito. Keepers said both cubs are "active and vocal" and that they're "cautiously optimistic" that the two will thrive.
Zoo officials said that Brienne will be raising her babies on her own for two to three months until they're given a veterinary exam to determine their sexes. They're the fourth litter born at the zoo since 2010.
Just under 40 Andean bears are involved with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums species survival plan, where they're studied to determine which ones can breed.
The zoo said that Brienne and Quito initially mated in the spring, but she didn't become pregnant until at least autumn due to delayed reproduction in the species. Zoo officials only discovered the presence of two cubs back in October.
The Andean bear is South America's only bear species. They typically live in the Andes mountain range from Venezuela to Bolivia.
Andean bears grow to 5 to 6 feet long and stand at 2 to 3 feet high. In the wild, their diet consists of fruits and plants known as bromeliads, along with small animals like rodents and birds.
The average lifespan of the bears in captivity is 20 years, but some have aged to their late 20s to early 30s. It's not known how long they live in the wild. They usually travel alone outside of mating season.
The zoo said Brienne and her cubs will stay inside her den until at least early spring of 2023 as it ensures that both babies are healthy and thriving.