Luka the Bear Arrives at Nashville Zoo

Luka, a 2-year old Andean bear, now calls Nashville Zoo home. The female bear arrived from Phoenix Zoo earlier this week and is doing well in an off-exhibit quarantine area.

“We’ve anticipated Luka’s arrival at Nashville Zoo since planning for this exhibit began in 2013,” said Lanny Brown, mammal curator. “Her trip from Phoenix was uneventful, and she’s spent her first days in Nashville exploring her enclosure and getting acclimated to her new keepers.”

Luka was beloved by the Phoenix community since her birth in 2013 and made headlines earlier this year due to a case of mistaken identity. For the first two years of her life, Luka was thought to be a male. It wasn’t until preparation began for the move to Nashville that Phoenix officials discovered he was actually a she.

“Identifying the sex of Andean bears is difficult, and the Phoenix staff took a hands-off approach to Luka because the mother did such a good job raising her,” said Brown. “Andean bears are so rare in zoos that any birth, regardless of gender, is important for both the breeding program and the survival of the species.”

Luka will soon be joined by two males and will remain off exhibit until the spring 2016 opening of Expedition Peru: The Trek of the Andean Bear. The new three-acre habitat will highlight South America’s cloud forest and feature over 20 species, including Andean bears, pudu, viscacha, sloths, marmosets, freshwater stingrays and guinea pigs. It is the first major exhibit to open as part of the Grow Wild campaign, the Zoo’s ambitious growth and expansion plan set for the next ten years.

Nashville Zoo is still seeking $1M of the total $8.3M needed for Expedition Peru. The exhibit has already received generous support from Cynthia and Dave Arnholt; Kelley and Lee Beaman & the Alvin and Sally Beaman Foundation; the Andrea Waitt Carlton Family Foundation; Sally and Neely Coble, III; Joe C. Davis Foundation; Dugas Family Foundation; Missy and John Eason; The Frist Foundation; Patricia and Rodes Hart; Sarah and David Ingram; Gail and Jeff Jacobs; Kent, Nora and Emme Kirby; Martin Family Foundation; Adrienne and Richard McRae III & the Selby and Richard McRae Foundation; Speer Foundation; Julie and Breck Walker; and Julia and Chris Whitson.

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