CINCINNATI, OH (February 27, 2018) – It was not love at first sight for Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s polar bears Anana and Little One. In fact, it has taken more than a year for the pair, put together on a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoo’s and Aquarium’s (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), to warm up to each other. With a little help from animal care staff to break the ice, they are now more than just friends and the Zoo has reason to hope that they will produce a cub.
“It’s been more than 25 years since we’ve had polar bear cubs at the Cincinnati Zoo, and the population of polar bears throughout North American Zoos is declining. Anana has produced cubs in the past, so we’re hoping that she and Little One, who is a genetically valuable male and thought to be fertile, will be able to reproduce,” said Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard.
The Zoo welcomed 17-year-old Anana in November of 2016, in time for last year’s breeding season. Unfortunately, the season came and went without the bears getting within ten feet of e
ach other. The animal care team stepped in and made some modifications that seemed to make Anana more comfortable in her habitat.
“It’s such a relief to see this behavior shift and to know that our observations and modifications made a difference,” said head polar bear keeper Lisa Vollmer. “I have worked with 12 polar bears during my 30 years at the Cincinnati Zoo, and I continue to be awestruck by them. To see Little One and Anana getting along so well now after their rough start together makes all the hard work and sleepless nights worth it.”
Zoo visitors got the opportunity to learn more about polar bears today during the Zoo’s International Polar Bear Day celebration, presented by Cold Jet, and were encouraged to take one simple action to reduce carbon emissions and help polar bears. “We asked people to lower their thermostat just a little. A two-degree adjustment can make a difference for the planet,” said Maynard. Scientists from the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) was on hand to demonstrate how they do ultrasounds on polar bears.
The Cincinnati Zoo is proud to partner with Polar Bears International as an Arctic Ambassador Center to help spearhead community efforts to reduce carbon dioxide and to educate visitors about global warming and wildlife conservation. Polar bears live in remote areas making them difficult and expensive to study. Monitoring and surveying them is challenging. Therefore, scientists don’t have solid figures on the total number of polar bears worldwide. The most recent IUCN report estimates that there are 26,000 polar bears left in the wild and lists it as a vulnerable species, citing loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change as its most serious threat.