What is a Studbook?.

The Studbook is an international genealogical register of endangered, threatened or in any case rare animal species kept in captivity. The task of keeping the Studbook is entrusted to the person with the expertise on the species in question or a zoological park possessing a good number of specimens or a successful record of live births in captivity. In this way, we can keep certain control over the existing patrimony of each threatened species in the zoos, know their numerical quantity and any changes in it, as well as the longevity of the specimens and the possibilities of exchange for the purposes of reproduction among the different parks around the world.

In addition to being a center for the research on this species, both in the field and in captivity, Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago has coordinated the Spectacled bear’s Studbook since 1983. This register is published annually, together with an inventory of data showing the different countries around the world possessing Spectacled bears in captivity.

Covers of some Studbooks published by Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago.


HISTORICAL REVIEW ON THE SPECTACLED BEAR CAPTIVE BREEDING IN VENEZUELA.

By:

Denis Alexander Torres

The creation of the first zoological park in Venezuela is attributed to General Juan Vicente Gómez, who possessed a private collection of animals in his residence located in the city of Maracay, Aragua State. This collection was opened to the public under the name of "Las Delicias" Zoological Park, in the year of 1919.

It’s not certain if Spectacled bears were exhibited there since its beginnings. However, what it is certain is that it was the first zoological park to feature these animals in Venezuela.

Unfortunately, the passage of time and the lack of a zoological register has allowed for this valuable information to go missing. In the year of 1989, during a study I undertook to evaluate the status of the Spectacled bear in captivity in this country, I gained knowledge through two animal keepers, Simón Hernández and Carlos Díaz (Paco), who had been working in this park for the past 45 years, that in 1947 two Spectacled bear cubs (male and female) coming from Yaracuy, were brought to the park. This locality is not certain, but these bears remained in the park for a period of 10 years; until such time that they were transferred to an European Zoo not known to them.

This account could be the earliest indication about the breeding of Spectacled bears in an official Venezuelan Zoo.

Thereafter, between 1963 and 1991, the "Las Delicias" Zoo exhibited a male Spectacled bear (Studbook Nº 180), originating from a forest in the vicinity of Sanare, Lara State. Since 1964, this animal shared its enclosure with a female Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) originating from the Miami Zoo, U.S.A. This couple produced several decedents starting from 1975, when the first hybrid male cub was born.

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Last Spectacled bear that lived at "Las Delicias" Zoo, Maracay, Aragua State, Venezuela.

 

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Breeding activity between Spectacled bear (male) and Asiatic black bear (female) at "Las Delicias" Zoo, Maracay, Aragua State, Venezuela.

 

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Spectacled bear (Studbook N° 180) at "Las Delicias" Zoo, Maracay, Aragua State, Venezuela.

The second zoo to exhibit Spectacled bears in Venezuela was the "Bararida" Zoological and Botanical Park located in Barquisimeto, Lara State. This park was inaugurated in 1967, and a year later the first specimens of Spectacled bear, two males (Studbook Nº 87, 88), originating from the area of Humocaro Alto, Lara State, were introduced. One of the bears (87) died in 1973 as a result of a septicemia related illness (Dr. Manuel Pernalete, com. pers.) and the other animal died in 1993. At a later time, in July 1973, a female approximately 4 to 6 moths old was brought up from the area of Barinitas, Barinas State and subsequently exchanged in May of 1976 to a Dutch firm (Van den Brink) for a group of animals. This female (Studbook Nº 114) was taken to a Zoo in Poland where it died in November 1990.

In 1978 a pair of adult bears (Male and Female Nº 153, 184) were received, originating from Mérida State. Of these specimens, the female died in November 1981 due to a case of Pneumonia (Dr. Manuel Pernalete, com. pers.) and the male died in September of 1994.

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In 1993, after years of only displaying two male bears, the zoo received by exchange a female bear named "Carolina" (Studbook Nº 303), originating from  "Las Leyendas" Park Zoo in Lima, Peru.

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In 1994 they received a male bear called "Pedro" (Studbook Nº 397), originating from the Leipzig Zoo in Germany. This same year and as a result of a seizure by the Wildlife Service (PROFAUNA), Ministry of the Environment, they received the male bear "Coco" (Studbook Nº 479).

The following year, in November 1995, the cub "Andy" was received (Studbook Nº 509), which was captured in the area of  "Pedregosa Alta" in Mérida, Mérida State.

Although this zoo has not been able to breed Spectacled bears, it has been given the distinction of being the Venezuelan zoological park with more experience in caring for this species in captivity. Their determination has allowed them to configure a short term breeding program, sustained by an animal exchange with the "Gustavo Rivera" Zoo and the construction of a modern exhibit with the capacity to house two couples. At the present time, the park lodges four Spectacled bears (2 males and 2 females).

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The third zoo to exhibit Spectacled bears in Venezuela was "Parque Sur" in Maracaibo. According to the writings of Dr. Edgardo Mondolfi in his work devoted to the Spectacled bear, published by the magazine Defensa de la Naturaleza in the year 1971: "a specimen was captured alive in Boconó, Trujillo State, and taken to the Zoological Garden of Maracaibo. There, there was another specimen originating from the Perijá Mountain Chain, Río Negro basin, Zulia State". These areas seem to be the source of a female (Studbook Nº 97) that died in 1986 and a male (Studbook Nº 98) that died in 1989.

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This park had the male bear named "Coro" (Studbook Nº 542), loaned by the "Gustavo Rivera" Zoological Park, which died during the first semester of 2001.

"Chorros de Milla" Zoological Park, in Mérida, Mérida State, is confronting problems with its historic records. It seems that several Spectacled bears have been exhibited there in various occasions, this can be corroborated by Dr. Pernalete, which reported receiving a pair of Spectacled bears in 1978, originating from the Mérida’s Zoo.

In October 1989, the park received a cub named "Coqui" (Studbook Nº 398) originating from the forests nearing the town of El Charal, Mérida State. This animal died in 1991 as a result of poisoning.

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The small Zoo of Capacho, Táchira State, also exhibited a Spectacled bear (Studbook Nº 245) that died in June 1986. The origins, as well as the receiving date of this bear were never clear due to a lack of records.

The sixth zoo to keep Spectacled bears in captivity in Venezuela was the "Gustavo Rivera" Environmental and Zoological Park of Punta Cardón, Falcón State.

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The breeding of bears in this park started in August 9, 1990, when a male bear (Studbook Nº 350) was received, product of a donation from Mr. Pacheco who kept the animal in a 3 x 3 m. cage on his ranch located in Guachizón, near to El Vigía, Mérida State. This farmer cared for this specimen since it was a cub, and until age 7, when it was transferred to the zoo. This bear died later, on July 1997 as consequence of a cardio-breathing illness (Andrés Eloy Bracho, com. pers.).

In May 5 1991, the Lincoln Park Zoological Gardens of Chicago, U.S.A, donated a female named "Goggles" (Studbook Nº 195), which was born in the Calgary Zoo in Canada.

In October 4 1992, a male cub (Studbook Nº 424) was received and baptized with the name "Manuel de Uribante". The animal was seized from some rural-dwellers in the town of El Irán, close to the hydroelectric project Uribante-Caparo (Táchira State), by personnel from the Basin Management Plant "Siberia" of CADAFE.


BREEDING OF THE SPECTACLED BEAR IN VENEZUELA.

"Gustavo Rivera", is the only zoological park in Venezuela that has been able to breed Spectacled bears. The park boasts the record of 4 deliveries, with two being successful.

In October 5 1995, at six o’clock in the morning, the bear "Goggles" who had been mounted by the bear "Pacheco", gave birth to the first Spectacled bear to be born in captivity in Venezuela. The female was baptized "Paraguaná", which means, “Land without Water" in the local native language. The gestation period was: 233 days (Andrés Eloy Bracho, com. pers.).

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Two years later, on November 20, Goggles had given birth to the first Spectacled bear twins in captivity in Venezuela. This time, it was calculated that the gestation period was of 208 days (Andrés Eloy Bracho, com. pers.).

The twins were loaned to the Zoos of Maracaibo and Barquisimeto. The male that was sent to Maracaibo died at the beginning of 2001, while the female "Chiquinquirá", together with the bear "Andy ", is part of a breeding program in Barquisimeto. On the other hand, the Gustavo Rivera Zoo tries to achieve the second generation of spectacled bears born in captivity in Venezuela.


Why is it important to keep Spectacled bears in captivity?.

The importance of performing research on the Spectacled bear both in the field and within the captive population is a subject of discussion, as these two working scenarios can complement each other. The studies done on the wild population can confirm hypothesis formulated while studying the captive specimens and vice versa. For example, studies in the field can suggest optimum diets for captive bears and the effects of different diets can be easily studied in the captive population to later be related to the seasonal differences in regards to the food availability in the natural habitat.

Mother-cub interactions studies can provide ideas about the habits of the bears in the wild; an example of these are the vocalizations studies performed in captivity, which has allowed us to better understand ethological aspects of the Spectacled bear. Perhaps this information could serve as a comparative model to be used in the ethological studies done in the field, or even, the location of wild individuals by means of reproducing the sounds recorded in the zoos.

Due to the difficulties associated with the study of the Spectacled bear in its natural habitat, the observations carried out in captive bears can be a valid option to learn some aspects of the animal’s biology. This option is justified as the areas that the bears inhabit do not favor their tracking, nor frequent and detail observations on its behavior. This bear behaves in an antisocial and secretive manner, choosing to live in areas of difficult access. A scarce population also compounds the difficulties of studying the bear in the wild. Then again, by keeping individuals in captivity and in good enclosures, we can obtain valuable information, especially about their behavior and reproduction. This has already been proven in many biological aspects of the Spectacled bear, such as the gestation period, their attentiveness to their cubs and the interaction among different individuals. There is no doubt that breeding in captivity has allowed us to learn more about the life of the Spectacled bear. Furthermore, these centers serve as “environmental classrooms” so many people can get to know the species and help promote their conservation. Most important of all is to maintain the wild population and their habitats to guarantee the survival of the species and as a last resort, once the economic and ecological conditions would allow it, be able to insure the introduction of some specimens born in captivity back to their natural environment.


Credits in  Photos: 

- Spectacled bear in the title "Captivity Breeding": © Denis Torres.