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Spectacled bears move into new home at Port Lympne Reserve near Hythe

By Matt Leclere

A pair of bears are finding their necessities in life after moving into their new home in Kent.

Oberon and Rina, who are spectacled bears native to South America, are now at Port Lympne Reserve after making their public debut.

They are the first bears the reserve near Hythe has ever kept and keepers are soon hoping for the pitter patter of paws in the coming months.

Oberon (male, left) and his mate Rina are the first bears to move to Port Lympne

Oberon (male, left) and his mate Rina are the first bears to move to Port Lympne

Richard Barnes, head of large carnivores for the reserve, told KentOnline that keepers know the vulnerable bears have already mated but it will be a while before they can tell if Rina is pregnant.

Reserve staff are very excited by their arrival and that they are now on display to visitors on the safari trail around the reserve.

Only a few thousand survive in the wild in Peru, Ecaudor and Venezuela with their numbers dwindling due to people encroaching on their habitat and hunting for their paws.

Bear paws are available in markets in South America for just $20.

Rina arrived from an animal park in Berlin

Rina arrived from an animal park in Berlin

 

"It's ridiculous because it's nothing and it means a bear has lost its life because it's such a sad waste," Richard explained.

"We got them in as a breeding pair. They have mated already but we're not sure if anything is going to come of it first time round. They're both fairly young only three-year-olds and generally don't mature until four.

"There's a chance she may already be pregnant but we'll have to wait and see. They wait until it's seasonally best to have their offspring.

"Next year we would see hopefully some baby bears or the next year."

The bears arrived just over a month ago and had been settling into their new home away from the public eye.

Oberon was brought in from a zoo in Belgium

Oberon was brought in from a zoo in Belgium

Rina, who arrived first from Berlin, rules the roost and is often the one to assert her dominance in the enclosure over Oberon, who moved in around a month after from Antwerp Zoo in Belgium.

They are thought to be the bear that inspired Michael Bond's Paddington Bear character.

Richard said: "We did find very early on they enjoy marmalade sandwiches so if we want to slip some medicine it goes in a sweet treat or a sandwich. They only thing they like more than marmalade is honey or peanut butter. That's the trick."

Keepers have been extremely pleased with their progress and how they have been getting on.

"They've settled very well and they've got on at times very well but other times like a married couple they've argued," Richard added.

 

Port Lympne's head of large carnivores, Richard Barnes, who looks after Rina and Oberon

Port Lympne's head of large carnivores, Richard Barnes, who looks after Rina and Oberon

"She's very much the boss. He's generally very relaxed and follows her around pining for her if she's not with him. Sometimes if she gets a little bit full on he'll chase her back.

"They're just being bears so they get on really well.

"It's quite a different set up from what they were used to and when they first come out with the grass and the banks and the structures they were exploring and testing everything.

"They're nosy, very nosy. She's into everything but she's generally non-destructive whereas it's a completely different story for him. He wants to break everything.

"He'll test it see if it starts moving and if it does he'll try to break it. She's a habit of going up high. 

"We've got an old shelter which she gets on to it and struggles to get back down and forgets how she got on to it so she's not the most switched on of the two."

 

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