ST. LOUIS – A young Andean bear is back in its habitat at the Saint Louis Zoo after escaping twice this month.
Ben the bear escaped from his outdoor habitat around 1 p.m. Thursday. Zoo officials are determined to find the best way to secure Ben the bear’s outdoor enclosure, so he will not escape a third time.
“We saw the Andean bear earlier, and we were making jokes about it trying to escape, and in hindsight it was,” said Ben and Hannah, visitors from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The grounds were on lockdown Thursday while zookeepers worked to find the bear. Guests and staff were taken to several indoor facilities. The zoo had reopened after the bear was found.
“They tranquilized him with one dart, and it didn’t take,” said Justin Evins, a zoo guest from Arkansas. “They had to hit him with another one. We didn’t get to see it, but we were stuck in there for about an hour or so.”
Andean bears are rare, with less than 10,000 of them still in the wild. The South American bear first got out of his enclosure on Feb. 7.
“At one o’clock he got out, and within 50 minutes he was secured and back in his habitat,” said Michael Macek, director of the Saint Louis Zoo. “We have a procedure here at the zoo; we do drills throughout the year to perfect it. I couldn’t be more pleased that all our team members and guests are safe and that Ben is safely back in his habitat.”
This is only the second time an animal has escaped from its outdoor habitat.
Macek said the steel mesh did not give way, it was intact; instead, it was the connection points to the framing that the 300-pound bear was able to slip through.
“It might sound like that’s a large animal, but he can get through a relatively small hole,” Macek said. “I will say it wasn’t any bigger than 13 inches in diameter, and he managed to squeeze through that. Of course, the mesh had a little bit of give as well. But he really only compromised a couple of spaces, and that was enough for him to get through.”
Ben will spend some time getting enrichment indoors for the time being.
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2023-02-25 06:14:14 ,
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