Today is ‘International Polar Bear Day’, and in honor of the efforts to save this species, we are introducing you to a trio of adorable new cubs!
On November 8, a Polar Bear named Anana gave birth to twins at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. On November 16, her sister, Aurora, also gave birth to twin cubs. However, this great news was met with the unfortunate passing of one of Anana’s cubs.
This is Aurora’s third time producing twins; the first litter did not survive and the now famous, Nora, was born in the second litter on November 6, 2015. Nora was hand reared by the Zoo team after Aurora left her alone in the den when she was six days old.
Activity inside the dens was being monitored using remote cameras, and the reason for the loss of Anana’s cub will likely never be known. Animal care staff members, who had been observing Anana and Aurora 24 hours a day, noted the cub stopped moving, but Anana continued to groom the cub and held it in position to nurse.
“At this time, both Anana and Aurora are attentively caring for their cubs but the sudden loss of one of Anana’s cubs is a sad reminder of how fragile their lives are both in our care and in their native Arctic environment,” said Carrie Pratt, Curator of North America and Polar Frontier. “We remain hopeful for the survival of these cubs as well as for the future of Polar Bears.”
The sire to all the cubs is 28-year-old Nanuq who came to the Columbus Zoo in 2012. As long as Aurora and Anana continue to care for cubs in their dens, Nanuq is the only Polar Bear visible to guests.
Anana and her cub are taking baby steps to explore other areas of the maternity den. The little one is now eating chow and will also steal little slivers of meat from mom. The cub is also climbing and running on sand piles and sod. After being introduced to a few inches of water (up to the belly), the cub is a big fan. The cub’s sex will be confirmed during the vet wellness check-up in the coming weeks, and both mom and baby will remain off-view until spring.
Aurora and her twin cubs are also experiencing similar milestones as her sister and cub. The cubs are being introduced to more of the behind-the-scenes yards with sand and sod (slowly growing their world) and they are doing great. They are also eating chow and sneaking bits of meat from mom. The twins have been introduced to a few inches of water. According to keepers, they will put all four paws in, splash around and stick their snouts in. Afterwards, they like to roll on the sod to dry off. The twins’ sex will be confirmed during their vet wellness check-up in the coming weeks, and, as with Anana and cub, both mom and babies will likely be on view in the spring.
Nanuq is the oldest male Polar Bear to reproduce in a North American zoo. Nine-year-old twins Aurora and Anana arrived at the Columbus Zoo in 2010 when the Polar Frontier region opened. All three bears came from other zoos on breeding loans as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the threatened species.
Female Polar Bears generally have their first set of cubs between the ages of four and eight years. Due to delayed implantation, the gestation period can range from about 195 to 265 days. Pregnant Polar Bears den in the fall and give birth, generally to two cubs, in the winter. The cubs grow quickly on their mother’s fat-rich milk before emerging from the den in the spring.
Polar Bears are native to the circumpolar north including the United States (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland). They are at the top of the Arctic food chain and primarily eat seals. Polar Bear populations are declining due to the disappearance of sea ice, and experts estimate that only 20,000-25,000 Polar Bears are left in the wild. Some scientists believe if the warming trend continues two-thirds of the population could disappear by the year 2050.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, in partnership with Polar Bears International (PBI), has provided support to 14 conservation projects in three countries since 1998. In recognition of the Zoo’s conservation and education programs, PBI has designated the Columbus Zoo an Arctic Ambassador Center.
For more information on the work PBI does, and 'International Polar Bear Day', please see their website: www.polarbearsinternational.org