Photo contest to promote Alba’s zoo experiences

Like most babies, Alba explores her world through taste, so she’s often spotted with something in her mouth, maybe a tiny branch or piece of bamboo.

A healthy and active bear, the 7-month-old cub, whose birth was a surprise to the staff in January, stays busy exploring, jumping and climbing trees.

“She has two speeds. She’s either asleep or she’s running,” said zookeeper Caleb Oliver, who had a smile in his voice as he talked about her antics.

Salisbury residents voted to name her Alba, Spanish for “sunrise,” in a citywide contest. Results were announced by Mayor Jim Ireton on July 24.

In conjunction, Got Bear?, a photo and coloring competition for children,  continues through Aug. 28 as part of the city’s ’bury Bear Project. It’s an initiative to create an Andean bear program at the zoo, for the endangered animals.

See contest rules at:

Entries will be accepted through the end of August. Several photos are posted now, including one of Alba scaling a tree toward her mother, Chaska, who’s at the top.

“She’s climbing. She’s a fearless climber. She likes to walk on her back legs like a little circus clown,” Oliver said, adding Alba is most visible to the public between 9 and 11 a.m., and later in the afternoon.

Her mother is almost always with her.  The father, Gritto, who is about 23 and considered elderly, has been more energetic lately, despite a few ailments. He wades in the pool and sleeps on the cool concrete of the patio.

“He’s a real happy bear,” Oliver said.

Alba is especially fond of an hourglass-shaped plastic toy that scared her the first time she saw it. She likes to stand on a little platform and look visitors in the face, through the glass at the bear exhibit. Oliver said she’s especially curious about children.

Around 30 pounds, Alba, like Chaska, has a fondness for peanuts and pears, along with a prepared diet, and snacks on watermelon, grapes and sweet potatoes.

Alba’s growth will continue to be celebrated throughout the year, and culminate in January 2016 with 1-year-old birthday merriment.

Generally, baby bears stay close to their mothers 18 to 24 months, so if Salisbury’s little one is sent to another zoo to be bred, that’s probably the age she’ll depart,  Oliver said.

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