The Species Survival Program/Andean Bear Cubs

The current Andean Spectacled bear cubs, born at the National Zoo on December 13, are part of the Species Survival Program. This program is designed to ensure the genetic integrity and survival of species that are in danger of extinction. The program was developed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) in 1981. They continue to oversee the program and accredit participating institutions.

Specific individuals and zoos are designated for each Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSPs are overseen by Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs). These TAGs develop a Stud Book (SB) and Breeding and Transfer plan for their species. You can search for this information for specific species on the AZA site.

In the case of the Andean Spectacled bear – aka Tremarctos ornatus – Scott Silver of the Queens Zoo is Program Leader of the SSP. The Stud Book is maintained by Mike Connolly at the  Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum. They are part of the Bear TAG. You can find this by searching on the Taxon (mammal), the Program Type (SB, SSP, or TAG), or the Associated TAG (Bear TAG). Entering any one piece of information brings up a list you can use to find what you need.

The Andean Bear is the only surviving “short-faced” bear. It’s the only bear species in South America. The cubs born to Billie Jean are the second surviving set of cubs born in the US. Both sets of cubs were born to Billie Jean – also bred in a zoo – after naturally mating with Nikki.


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