ST. LOUIS — Ben, an Andean bear at the Saint Louis Zoo, is determined to explore the world around him.
The curious bear escaped from his enclosure in the Rivers Edge area of the zoo Thursday afternoon, according to a spokesperson with the zoo.
Ben wasn’t on the loose for long, though. He was tranquilized and returned to his indoor habitat. He was still in the Rivers Edge area of the zoo and all visitors were moved to indoor locations for safety.
The zoo is remaining open Thursday and operating as normal.
This is the second time Ben has escaped his enclosure. In the morning hours of Feb. 7, before opening hours, Ben was found outside his habitat. He was only on the loose for about an hour and 40 minutes before being tranquilized and returned to his enclosure.
Zoo director Michael Macek told 5 On Your Side after Ben's last escape, they added stainless steel clips to secure his enclosure, but he still tore through them.
"The habitat we've had since 2016, we have not had a bear escape from that habitat ever," he said. "He's just very curious."
After his first escape and this escape, the zoo said it would inspect the habitat and discuss ways to keep them secure.
"We will never forget this day that the bear escaped the zoo," visitor Michael Smith said.
"It would appear that the very curious bear meddled with the steel mesh in just the right spot of the outdoor habitat, causing a cable to give way, which then allowed the bear to work his way out," Billy Brennan, with the zoo, said the first time he escaped.
Ben came to the zoo in the summer of 2021 after a recommendation from the Andean Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP). The Andean bear is the only bear found in South America and is considered vulnerable due to habitat loss and poaching threats.
There are about 30 Andean bears in the SSP population, according to the zoo.