Two Andean bear cubs were born in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 15, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute announced. It’s considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with an estimated 2,000 Andean bears left in the wild, making the birth of these cubs even more significant.

The zoo said the cubs were born to first-time parents, a 3-year-old female named Brienne and a 9-year-old male named Quito. Keepers said both cubs are “active and vocal” and that they’re “cautiously optimistic” that the two will thrive.

Brienne is pictured taking care of her two offspring following their birth on Nov. 15.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Zoo officials said that Brienne will be raising her babies on her own for two to three months until they’re given a veterinary exam to determine their sexes. They’re the fourth litter born at the zoo since 2010.

Just under 40 Andean bears are involved with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums species survival plan, where they’re studied to determine which ones can breed.

The zoo said that Brienne and Quito initially mated in the spring, but she didn’t become pregnant until at least autumn due to delayed reproduction in the species. Zoo officials only discovered the presence of two cubs back in October.

The Andean bear is South America’s only bear species. They typically live in the Andes mountain range from Venezuela to Bolivia.

Brienne, an Andean bear, is seen outside of her den.

Roshan Patel

The zoo said Brienne and her cubs will stay inside her den until at least early spring of 2023 as it ensures that both babies are healthy and thriving.