Nashville Zoo’s first Andean bear, Luka, celebrated her 4th birthday on January 3 with a Frozen themed birthday party. This is Luka’s second birthday at Nashville Zoo since arriving in June 2015 from Phoenix Zoo.
The birthday party included Luka’s favorite enrichment items - large tubs, cardboard castles covered in different herbs and spices, a snow machine (using Dawn dish soap), bubbles and a birthday "cake" made of specialty bear biscuits soaked in diluted cran-apple juice topped with a Honey drizzle, wax worms and a hardboiled egg.
Birthday party guests included Zoo staff members, a cardboard Olaf and two other special guests – Andean bear brothers Holt and Muniri, who arrived in Nashville last May from The National Zoo. All three Andean bears live in a temporary home on the back of the Zoo’s property as they await the completion of their new exhibit - Expedition Peru – Trek of the Andean Bear.
While Luka is visibly smaller than the brothers, guests will be able to identify her by her prominent tan speckled markings on her face. Muniri can be distinguished by a long, single tan stripe that runs between his eyes. The most curious and mischievous of the group, Holt, has a black face with small tan markings on his muzzle.
Keepers have been working with all three bears on target training, which enables keepers and vet staff to easily conduct routine health exams, ultrasounds, blood draws as well as daily claw and paw exams. Because Andean bears are naturally inquisitive and curious, they get excited to learn and try new things, especially when their favorite foods (corn-on-the-cob and fruit) are part of the training.
The Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is South America’s only bear species. Often referred to as the spectacled bear, this omnivorous species is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List due to habitat destruction and poaching. There are only 38 Andean bears in the AZA collection across the United States, three of which are here in Nashville.