World’s Largest Polar Bear Poop Bank Provides Critical Fertility Clues

Posted November 10, 2017 by Erin Curry

In addition to all of the animals and plants at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, did you know that the Zoo also has a state-of-the-art research center that’s committed to saving polar bears? Scientists at the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) have become recognized leaders in the field of polar bear reproduction. Within the last ten years, CREW researchers have launched multiple studies aimed at better understanding the unique reproductive physiology of this species.

“Beary” Interesting Facts:

No pregnancy test exists for polar bears. CREW scientists are working on projects that may result in the ability to diagnose pregnancy from a single fecal sample. Not only would a pregnancy test provide animal caretakers with information they need to better manage bears in their care, it also would provide clues as to where the pregnancy process might be failing.

Zoos from around the world send samples to CREW for analysis. To date, CREW has received nearly 40,000 fecal samples!

Polar bear producing a fecal sample (Photo: SRSLYGUYS)

Not only does CREW house what might be the world’s largest polar bear poop bank, it’s also home to a polar bear sperm bank. CREW scientists have optimized a method of collecting semen from male polar bears, which has enabled the preservation of valuable genetics from numerous individuals.

CREW scientists performed the world’s first polar bear artificial insemination (AI) in 2012. To date, no cubs have resulted from AI, but each procedure brings a chance to optimize techniques and allows us to better understand the reproductive cycle of this species.

Berit the polar bear thanks you! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

This work is part of CREW’s Polar Bear Signature Project, which aims to study polar bear reproduction and to help overcome reproductive challenges faced by this iconic species. Since longitudinal sampling from wild individuals is logistically challenging, information learned from the captive population can be applied to their wild cousins as well.

You can help support CREW’s polar bear research by clicking here

Painting for Polar Bear Conservation

Love polar bears? A budding artist? Or simply just want a fun morning at the Zoo with friends while giving back? Join us for a unique event at the Zoo as we paint for polar bear conservation with our friends at Pinot’s Palette – Liberty Township.

Bring your girlfriends, family members or group of coworkers for a guided painting event. No experience necessary! The Pinot’s Palette artists will guide you step-by-step through the featured painting below and will ensure that you stay on track to complete your masterpiece by the end of class.

Proceeds benefit Polar Bear Challenge – a goal to raise $70,000 by December 31st for CREW’s Signature Polar Bear Conservation Project, which is working to create a more stable future for the world’s threatened polar bears!

When: Sunday, December 10 from 10:30am-1pm
Where: Peacock Pavilion, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Parking: Safari Parking lot
Price: $100/per person.