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 Anana, a 19-year-old female polar bear from the Cincinnati Zoo, recently moved to the Detroit Zoo.

Anana, a 19-year-old female polar bear from the Cincinnati Zoo, recently moved to the Detroit Zoo.

Photo provided by the Detroit Zoo


Detroit Zoo welcomes 19-year-old female polar bear

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published February 26, 2020

 Officials hope that Anana and Nuka, the Detroit Zoo’s 15-year-old male polar bear, will produce offspring.

Officials hope that Anana and Nuka, the Detroit Zoo’s 15-year-old male polar bear, will produce offspring.

Photo provided by the Detroit Zoo

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ROYAL OAK — A new female polar bear, 19-year-old Anana, recently made her debut at the Detroit Zoo’s 4-acre Arctic Ring of Life habitat. She joined 15-year-old male polar bear Nuka and 6-year-old female polar bear Suka.

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums polar bear species survival plan recommended that Anana be relocated from the Cincinnati Zoo because both she and Nuka have proven to be fertile, and her attempts at producing offspring with Little One, the Cincinnati Zoo’s 30-year-old male polar bear, were unsuccessful.

Dr. Randi Meyerson, deputy chief life sciences officer for the Detroit Zoological Society and chair of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ polar bear species survival plan, said the association tries to not move polar bears more than they need to, because they bond with zookeepers and each other.

After a quarantine period of approximately a month — a common practice for any species new to the zoo to ensure they are healthy, happy and will integrate well — Anana is exploring her tundra habitat. DZS Chief Life Sciences Officer Scott Carter said she will soon be able to freely interact with the other two bears.

“We’re in the normal process of introducing a new bear,” Carter said. “They are in two separate outdoor habitats, but they can see, smell and hear each other, and in the next couple of weeks, they’ll all be together.”

Polar bears’ breeding season is early spring. After a gestation period of approximately eight months, female polar bears can give birth to up to four cubs.

Carter said female polar bears can delay pregnancy, which is known as embryonic diapause, to give birth when conditions are ideal. Wild polar bears, he added, are also unique from the other eight species of bears because they primarily eat raw meat, specifically seal blubber.

“Nuka and Anana appear curious and interested, which is a good sign. We’re optimistic for future breeding and carefully watching how their relationship develops,” he said. “We’re very happy to have a third polar bear here. Sometimes it’s hard to see two bears in such a big space — this will make it nicer for guests.”

According to the zoo, polar bears can become 6 to 9 feet tall and weigh 450 to 1,400 pounds. Their conservation status is listed as vulnerable.

Meyerson said polar bear numbers in the wild were very low at one point due to overhunting and toxins in the environment, but the five nations populated by polar bears came together to put regulations in place.

Polar bears, she said, have become the face of climate change, since global warming has contributed to a measurable reduction in sea ice, forcing polar bears to travel farther, swim more to find food, and den on land.

The DZS recently began partnering with field scientists in the arctic to conduct noninvasive research on the zoo’s polar bears in order to help polar bears in the wild. It also works to educate the public about how to become good stewards of the environment.

“Things aren’t hopeless, and people can help the polar bears by decreasing their carbon footprints, meaning using less energy and not only recycling, but buying recycled products,” Meyerson said.

International Polar Bear Day is Thursday, Feb. 27, and the Detroit Zoo will celebrate by offering zookeeper talks and educational activities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The polar bears will receive special treats at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., and staff will discuss the personalities and behaviors of Nuka, Suka and Anana after each feeding.

Education stations will also be available for visitors to look closely at polar bear fur, which is actually translucent and hollow and appears white due to the sun’s reflection off of the bears’ dark skin. Visitors can don “blubber gloves” to experience how blubber keeps polar bears warm, as well as compare themselves to a life-size polar bear cutout in the Nunavut Gallery.

The Detroit Zoo is located at 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, west of Woodward Avenue.

For more information, visit www.detroitzoo.org or call (248) 541-5717.

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