Baby Bear Alba soon headed to San Diego Zoo

Alba Main

It’s time for the baby bear to leave the Salisbury Zoo, where a delighted community celebrated her unexpected birth, waited for glimpses of her and photographed her endlessly.

The cub, named Alba by the community, is scheduled to depart  for the San Diego Zoo on May 18, where she will eventually be paired with a male bear named Turbo, in hopes she will give birth.

“We are going to work to get her used to her transfer crate and to prepare her as best we can for the journey. We won’t send her until we are confident that she can handle the move appropriately. When she makes the move we will have two of our keepers accompany her during the transport,” Ralph Piland, zoo director, told the Salisbury Independent.

A few months ago, he smiled as he described the rambunctious and comical cub as not having a slow speed.

“She’s either asleep or running. She pulls at her mom’s hair. They play fight. She will try to sneak up on her mom. She has grown a fair bit and she’s eating well,” Piland said.

Now 1 year, three months old, Alba is at the stage of an Andean bear’s life when she begins to be more independent from the mother who nurtured and carefully kept her out of danger.

Knowing the process has begun, zookeepers separated Alba from her mother, 6-year-old Chaska who, they hope, will again give birth.

“Both Mom and cub have shown through their behaviors that it is time for Alba to leave the nest,” Mary Seemann, director of marketing and development at the zoo, explained in a news release.

“In the wild at around 1 year of age a cub will leave its mother and venture out into the forest ready to start a new life, perhaps with offspring of its own someday. Andean bears, like most bears, naturally are solitary animals. They rarely come in contact with other bears unless they are seeking a mate. Our bears are just exhibiting expected and normal behaviors and we must honor their instincts,” Seemann wrote.

She said zoo staff members have mixed emotions about Alba leaving.

They’ve “worked very hard to provide both Mom and cub with a stimulating and supportive environment,” she said.

“Their success is marked by the fact that our bears are acting like bears. It has been a great year sharing this baby bear’s birth and growth with you, our visitors. We want to thank you for being involved in her life, for the support the community has given to the Salisbury Zoo, and for understanding these next chapters in Alba’s life,” she said.

Seemann said there are only 20,000 Andean bears left in the wild, causing them to be reclassified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“Our collaboration with other institutions is important to conservation and gives hope for the future of the species,” Seemann said.

Alba, known for being a little dickens who loves to climb, stayed in the news regularly since her birth Jan. 23, 2015.

When she was five months old, it was announced the winning name was  Alba, meaning “daybreak.”

Of Spanish origin the name was selected over other choices including Esperanza, Sonrisa, Jefa, Milagro, Enhorabuena, Encantada and Mariquita.

In October, Alba’s father, 24-year-old Gritto, died. Now, local zoo officials are working with national experts, following a survival plan program to find another mate for Chaska.

Gritto was born in 1991 at the San Diego Zoo, and came to Salisbury in 2003.

He first lived with Poopsie, who later died when she was 37, giving her the distinction of being the oldest Andean bear in captivity.  The two did not have cubs together.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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