Assiniboine Park Zoo’s newest Polar Bear is comfortably settling into her new home less than 24 hours after arriving on October 28 from Churchill. Officials from the zoo, located in Winnipeg, Canada, travelled to northern Manitoba to rescue the female cub after she was found wandering alone near the airport last week.
Believed to be 11 months-old, the 94-pound (38 kg) cub wouldn’t have otherwise survived on her own, as Polar Bears rely on protection from their mothers for up to two years. Now that she’s at Assiniboine Park Zoo's International Polar Bear Conservation Centre (IPCC), the wild bear seems to feel right at home: she is eating well on her own, playing with enrichment toys, and splashing around in her kiddie pool. For the next 30 days, she will remain in quarantine, as is zoo standard procedure. This will allow close monitoring of her health and ensure that the new bear will not pass on any pathogens when she is eventually introduced to the two other bears at the zoo. Besides a few broken teeth and some bumps, she is generally in good condition, and does not appear to be stressed by her new surroundings.
"It's one of those feel-good stories that we can save her. It's a shame that you have an animal like this that you have to take from the wild, but with no chance of survival, it's the only thing that makes sense," says Don Peterkin, chief operations officer for the Assiniboine Park Conservancy. "The IPBCC was built for orphaned cubs. We recognized that there would be other needs, but we all have a soft spot for an 11-month-old cub who has lost Mom and has no chance of survival in the wild at all. She's just too young to ever hope to survive on her own."
“Without the Center here, the options are fairly limited. We have tried in the past to adopt out orphan cubs with a mother and one cub, but those attempts have all failed,” says Dr. Jim Duncan of Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship.
The International Polar Bear Conservation Centre opened almost two years ago and is part of the larger Journey to Churchill exhibit that is still under construction, but is expected to open in the summer of 2014. The Centre has outdoor habitats for the polar bears as well. Eventually the three resident bears will move into one of the larger outdoor Polar Bear habitats in Journey to Churchill. The zoo is also looking at a fourth bear from Argentina that may join the others as early as the spring.