Veterinarians at the Phoenix Zoo recently got a big shock when they realized that a 2-year-old Andean bear that everybody thought was a male is actually a female.
"You could call it a real em-bear-assment or a true faux 'paw,'" Fox10 joked.
"Last week, Luka, our 2-year-old Andean bear, made the move to a behind-the-scenes area of the Phoenix Zoo in preparation for transport to another zoo and so we could begin the process of reintroducing our adult bears to one another with the hopes that they will have more offspring. In addition to moving Luka, Zoo veterinarians conducted a routine health exam and ... surprise! He is a she!," the zoo bashfully wrote on its website.
The discovery was made last week just as keepers were getting the bear named Luka ready for a trip to Nashville for breeding.
During a health examination, it was very clear that Luka wasn't the right choice.
The zoo explained how the error was made, noting, "After Luka's first exam at 4 months old, we have been very hands off. Rio proved to be an outstanding mother and there was no reason for us to intervene. You cannot determine gender through simple visual observation."
Though the zoo was joking about the issue, it's not entirely their fault. An Andean bear's genitalia is underdeveloped up to the age of two years, and that makes determining sex rather difficult, ABC15 explains.
"So what does this mean for Luka?," the zoo wrote. "Even if we had known Luka was a female from birth, it would not have changed her needing to move to another zoo at around two years of age, because Andean bear cubs in the wild leave their mothers to start life on their own around the same time. Once the cub(s) leave, it allows the mother, or in our case both adults, the chance to breed again. Both Luka and Rio have adjusted very well to the separation process and we still expect Luka to leave the Zoo this spring. We are working with the Andean bear Species Survival Plan® which manages the population of Andean bears in Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited zoos. While there is still a chance Luka will be heading to the Nashville Zoo, the discovery that she is a female opens up a few more possibilities and options. Once we know more about where Luka will be headed, we will be sure to provide an update."
Though this breeding trip didn't work out quite right, Luka will likely be a mother in the future, as females are very important to the breeding program for Andean bears.
Sadly, the species is classified as vulnerable.
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