After escaping twice from the St. Louis Zoo, a Houdini-like Andean bear named Ben will be moving to a Texas zoo, where staff hope a moat will keep him safely enclosed.
Ben made headlines breaking out of his enclosure twice in February. First, he damaged the steel mesh in his outdoor habitat until a cable gave way, allowing him to work his way out. Just weeks later, after the zoo made his enclosure more secure by adding stainless steel cargo clips rated at 450 pounds tensile strength, the wily creature got out again. Both times, he was safely returned to his habitat.
The St. Louis Zoo announced Tuesday a group of institutions and experts agreed it was best for Ben to be transferred to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, which has a “long history of working with Andean bears.”
The zoo’s Andean bear habitat features a “moat rather than steel mesh outdoor habitat, which the group believes would be a more ideal environment for Ben,” according to the news release.
“While we love Ben, and wish he could stay with us, our goal is to do what is best for him,” said Regina Mossotti, vice president of animal care at the St. Louis Zoo, in the release. “I am so grateful for the excellent care provided to Ben by our Animal Care team here and everyone’s willingness to seek opportunities for Ben to thrive.”
The zoo says they consulted with members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Andean Bear Species Survival Plan, the AZA Bear Taxon Advisory Group, and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Queens Zoo to find a new home for Ben.
In the meantime, Ben is in a nonpublic portion of the zoo, according to the release. He’s undergoing positive reinforcement training to help him get comfortable with his travel crate, so he has “a smooth journey to his new home in Texas.”
Andean bears like Ben are categorized as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The species is the only bear found in South America, living in the Andes mountains from western Venezuela to southern Bolivia.
The species’ survival is threatened due to habitat loss, retaliatory killing from farmers, and illegal hunting, the organization reported.