Tiny Polar Bear Cub Born at Zoo Sauvage
December 09, 2018
On the morning of November 27, zoo keepers arrived at Zoo Sauvage and heard the strong cries of a newborn cub coming from the Polar Bear den. Female Aisaqvak had given birth to a cub.
No Polar Bear had raised a cub at Zoo Sauvage since 2009, and the Polar Bear care team worked diligently to bring about another pregnancy. In 2011, a new adult male named Yellé arrived, and the team had high hopes that he and Aisaqvak would produce a cub. But despite the fact that the two Bears showed great interest in each other over several years, Aisaqvak did not become pregnant. A new male named Eddy arrived from the Aquarium du Québec in 2015, but over two seasons, he and Aisaqvak did not produce a cub. The staff decided to bring back Yellé in 2017, and breeding success was finally achieved in 2018.
Why did Aisaqvak and Yellé produce a cub this year and not in previous years? No one knows for certain, but the staff is overjoyed at the baby’s birth. The cub is significant because it introduces new genetic material into the zoo-dwelling population of Polar Bears. Aisaqvak was born in the wild, and Yellé has never reproduced before.
Newborn Polar Bears are very tiny in comparison to their mothers. Babies weigh just over one pound, while Aisaqvak weighs 727 pounds. The cub’s chances of survival are still precarious. However, the team sees hopeful signs that Aisaqvak is taking excellent care of her newborn. In addition, closed-circuit cameras allow the staff to watch every move as Aisaqvak and the baby bond in their private den. They two will remain in the den for several months, which is how mother and baby Polar Bears behave in the wild. Cubs begin walking at about three months of age. The baby’s gender will not be known for several months.
Wild Polar Bear populations are decreasing, as are populations within zoos. Polar Bears are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2006, 364 Polar Bears resided in zoos worldwide. In 2015, only 298 Polar Bears lived in zoos. Wild Polar Bears face threats from warming seas and shrinking sea ice, which affect their ability to hunt and capture prey.