“Andean Bear Escapes St. Louis Zoo, Zoo Consulting with AZA for Secure Enclosure”
On Thursday, the St. Louis Zoo witnessed an unexpected escape when Ben, a 4-year-old Andean bear, broke through the nearly 1000 metal twist tie-like clips attached to his enclosure. The bear was out of his habitat for around 50 minutes, forcing the zoo to implement its “Zoo Animal Emergency Response protocol” and guests and staff were escorted to indoor facilities. Ben was tranquilized and returned to his habitat after being sedated with a tranquilizer dart.
Ben, born at the Queens Zoo, was relocated to the Saint Louis Zoo in July 2021 as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Andean Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP). Andean bears, also known as spectacled bears, are the only known living bears native to South America and are a threatened species, meaning they face a high risk of going extinct in the wild.
Ben has escaped his enclosure for the second time. On the morning of Feb. 7, prior to the opening of the facility, Ben was located outside his enclosure. He was at large for a total of one hour and forty minutes before getting tranquilized and taken back to his cage. The zoo said that there was no reason to believe that there was any human fault or tampering that led to the bear’s escape out of its outdoor habitat.
The zoo added stainless steel cargo clips rated at 450 pounds tensile strength to better secure the outdoor habitat. Yet, that wasn't enough for Ben, as he managed to tear through them. Zoo Director Michael Macek, who described Ben as “curious,” said he tore through the clips that had been used to help secure his enclosure after an escape on Feb. 7.
To develop new strategies for keeping the bear in its enclosure, the zoo intends to seek advice from other accredited parks that are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The incident left visitors in shock, with one visitor, Michael Smith, saying “We will never forget this day that the bear escaped the zoo.” The St. Louis Zoo is working with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Bear Taxon Advisory Group to help secure Ben's space and come up with alternative ways to secure the habitat.
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