ST. LOUIS – An Andean bear briefly escaped his enclosure at the Saint Louis Zoo Tuesday morning, prompting staffers to initiate emergency protocol to safely and securely get the animal back inside his holding area.

According to Billy Brennan, a zoo spokesman, the incident occurred outside operating hours and was resolved before the zoo opened to the public.

Around 8 a.m., staffers discovered Ben the bear managed to get free from his enclosure in the River’s Edge. By about 9:40 a.m., the bear had been safely corralled near his habitat and staffers were able to tranquilize Ben and returned to his space.

After reviewing the evidence from the incident, the zoo does not suspect human fault or tampering was involved in the escape. Rather, this was a Goldilocks-esque case of Ben toying just the right spot on the steel mash surrounding his outdoor habitat, which caused a cable to give way and allowed Ben to make his way out.

Brennan says Ben received a full medical exam following the ordeal and is doing well.

Ben was born approximately three years ago at the Queens Zoo and was transferred 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 are native to South America and live in the Andes Mountain range. They’re considered a vulnerable species due to habitat loss and poaching threats. At present, there are only 30 individuals in the SSP population!

According to the zoo, Andean bears are also called “spectacled bears” because of the colored markings around their eyes. Said markings are unique to each bear.