A new species debuted at the Potawatomi Zoo on August 30, 2023. Muniri, a male Andean bear, made his first public appearance.

Muniri is 8 years old, and weighs about 200 pounds. He’s currently housed in the Zoo’s old lion exhibit while the Zoo’s new bear habitat and concessions lodge are being finished. Muniri moved to the Zoo on the recommendation of the Andean Bear Species Survival Plan, a cooperative population management program through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“Although it wasn’t our first plan, in the zoo world, things sometimes happen quickly,” says Josh Sisk, executive director of the Potawatomi Zoo. “We weren’t planning to have Muniri move to the Zoo until later this year, but circumstances changed, and we were able to bring him here sooner.”

Andean bears, also known as spectacled bears, are native to the Andean mountains of South America. They’re the last species in the short-faced bear genus (Tremarctos). Andean bears are considered vulnerable to extinction due to loss of habitat and poaching.

“Having a species of bear that most people don’t know about is a great opportunity for us to tell an important conservation story,” explains Sisk. “We think people are going to love getting to know all about Muniri and Andean bears.”

The Zoo’s bear habitat and concessions lodge will be finished this winter and will officially open in March 2024.