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Help name these baby bears at the National Zoo

Connor Padraic Mallon

The Smithsonian National Zoo is asking for your help.

Two Andean bear cubs need names before their official unveiling to the public March 28.

"By inviting everyone to select the cubs' names, we hope to instill a connection to this charismatic yet vulnerable species," said Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo. "Bear conservation efforts are vital for bears in their native habitats. I'm proud of our success in the past five years, which has been a combination of cooperative animals and keeper expertise."

Andean bears -- South America's only bear species -- are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, and it is estimated that there are only 20,000 left in the wild. Habitat destruction and hunting pose the greatest threats to their survival.

The bears are also called spectacled bears, for the unique beige markings that encircle their eyes.

Connor Padraic Mallon

The zoo's 18-week-old male Andean bears were born to 8-year-old mother Billie Jean and 21-year-old father Cisco Nov. 10 and 11, 2014. The cubs have been exploring their new compound, tussling with each other and climbing on rocks, logs and concrete walls.

"This is the first time we've had a pair of male cubs, and already we're seeing them wrestle, pounce on and play with each other much more than our previous litters," said Karen Abbott, animal keeper at the zoo. "Their interaction with one another and mom is especially endearing; I think the public will enjoy watching them play and explore their yard."

Bear fans have until Sunday to vote on the Zoo's website. The options for names reflect the cultural significance of Andean bears to the Quechua and Aymara, the indigenous communities of the Andes region they are native to.

For Cub 1, voters can choose between Larusiri (lah-roo-SEE-ree), meaning "giggly" in the Aymara language, Mayni (MY-nee) meaning "unique" or Kusisqa (coo-SEES-kah) meaning "happy."

The choices for Cub 2 are Tusuq (too-SOOK) meaning "dancer" in Quechua language, Muniri (moo-NEE-ree) meaning "loving" and Wayna (WHY-nah), which means "young."

The winning names will be announced March 26.

Connor Padraic Mallon
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