Polar Bear

Elvis the Beagle Sniffs Out Pregnant Polar Bears

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What do a two-year-old Beagle named Elvis and pregnant Polar Bears have in common?  Scientists at the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) have brought them together to detect pregnancy in Polar Bears living in zoos.

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Traditional pregnancy detection methods like hormone monitoring and ultrasounds don’t work well in Polar Bears.  With climate change threatening wild Polar Bear populations, CREW’s staff is getting creative to help save this important species, and they’ve found a possible helper in Elvis the Beagle. 

Working with professional dog trainer Matt Skogen, CREW is trying to determine if the sensitive noses of canines like Elvis can distinguish a pregnant Polar Bear from a non-pregnant Bear simply by smelling fecal samples.

“This is the first time sniffer dogs have been used in biomedical research as it relates to any wildlife species, making this project truly one-of-a-kind,” said CREW’s Dr. Erin Curry. Currently, Elvis is demonstrating 97% accuracy in positive identification of samples from pregnant females – which is not only incredible but nearly as accurate as over-the-counter human pregnancy tests.

Since January, Matt has used more than 200 training samples collected from Polar Bears of known pregnancy status to help Elvis refine his detection technique. 

Last month, Elvis’s skills were put to the test.  He tested samples from 17 female Polar Bears whose pregnancy status is unknown.  The zoos are eager to know if these females are pregnant so they can monitor these Polar Bears and make preparations.  Pregnant Bears could be isolated with minimal disruption while being closely monitored by camera 24/7 in anticipation of a birth, whereas non-pregnant females would remain swimming and socializing all winter with their exhibitmates.

Read more about Elvis and Polar Bears below the fold.

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UPDATE! Zoo Brno Polar Bears Get Their First Check Up

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We first reported on the Polar Bear cubs born at Zoo Brno HERE just last week. The duo have continued to grow and seem to still love harassing their mother Cora as much as ever. 

Recently, the cubs received their first check up. During this routine examination the cubs were given their first round of vaccination as well as identification chips. In addition, veterinarians were able to use the opportunity to sex the cubs. It was determined that Cora had given birth to one male and one female cub. After their brief visit the cubs, who have still yet to receive names, were returned to their mother who was surely happy to be reunited with her offspring. 

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Photo credits: Zoo Brno

See more photos after the fold!

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Bear Fight!

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Kali sizes up her opponent...

On March 12, an Inuit hunter shot and killed a female Polar Bear near Point Lay, Alaska. When he realized it was a female, he searched for the den and found young Kali, a 3 - 4 month cub. The hunter then carried the cub to the Department of Wildlife Management who then passed the healthy 18.4lb cub to the Alaska Zoo who was equipped to care for the orphan.

Thankfully the cub has so far thrived under the care of keepers and veterinarians, exhibiting the trademark playfulness of his age and species. In these photos, taken by volunteer photographer John Gomes at the Alaska Zoo, the cub takes on a similarly sized opponent. Plans are in the works to relocate the cub to the Buffalo Zoo in New York, which recently welcomed another cub, Luna. 

Kali makes the first move

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Brown Bear gets the upper paw! 

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Exhausted, they agree to disagree

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Photos courtesy of Alaska Zoo / John Gomes

Polar Bears are one of the most recognizable animals threatened by melting polar ice. The Alaska Zoo works with Polar Bears International (PBI) to try to reverse this troubling trend. The Alaska Zoo is a PBI Arctic Ambassador Center, which means they:

* Strive for bear friendly exhibits with enrichment activities to stimulate the bears to be active and content

* Provide leadership for carbon emission reduction in their communities

* Support PBI research projects to help conserve wild polar bears

* Play a key role in the PBI Sustainability Alliance, a front-line team helping to save polar bears in a rapidly warming Arctic

Thanks to Jaymie Wahlen for her help on this post.


Polar Bear Cubs Revealed to Public at Zoo Brno

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Two young Polar Bear cubs have been winning over the crowds at Zoo Brno in the Czech Republic. Although they were born over four months ago on November 24th, the public have just recently been able to catch glimpses of this playful duo, as they have only been on display for the past two weeks. 

The pair, a boy and a girl, were born to mother Cora. She has certainly had her paws full trying to keep a watch on the rambunctious siblings. They are very active and seem to have taken a liking to harassing their mother. They have not yet received names as the zoo is allowing the public to have a say in that decision through a poll on their website. Currently, the name "Nanuk" is in the lead for the little boy, and "Bella" is the lead for his sister. You can make your voice heard in the naming HERE.

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Photo credit: Zoo Brno

See many more photos after the fold!

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UPDATE! Buffalo Zoo's Baby Polar Bear Romps In First Snow and Takes a Dip In the Pool

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You may have first read about Buffalo Zoo's fuzzy white Polar Bear cub HERE on ZooBorns. Born on November 27 to Mom Anana and father, Nanuq, the female cub has been hand-raised by zoo staff. The results of a recent naming contest recently gave her the nickname Luna. It's expected that this little ball of fur will grow to be close to 600 pounds at adulthood.

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Photo Credit: Buffalo Zoo

The zoo is currently raising funds for their Bear Necessities Campaign. They're hoping to raise $18 million dollars to facilitate building a brand new polar bear habitat.

She is too young to stay in the habitat full time, but got her first chance to play and explore in the snow just last week. Watch below as the little one scampers around with her keepers just last week. 


A Sneak Peek at Toledo Zoo's Twin Polar Bear Cubs

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Twin Polar Bear cubs were born at the Toledo Zoo on November 21, but they’ve been behind the scenes with their mother Crystal until last week, when they stepped outdoors for a sneak peek. The cubs, who have not yet been named, are not expected to go into their exhibit until sometime in May.

The zoo staff monitors the twins by remote camera to reduce the stress on Crystal, age 13, and allow her to devote her energies to caring for her babies.  The twins’ father is Marty, the zoo’s resident male Polar Bear.

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Photo Credit:  Dr. Randi Meyerson


“This is the fourth litter of Polar Bears the Zoo has had since 2006,” Dr. Randi Meyerson, curator of mammals, said. “I credit our success to high-quality animal care, the staff’s relationship with the animals, the bears’ good temperaments and an outstanding facility. When the Arctic Encounter® opened in 2000, it was a state-of-the-art facility, and it still is.” 

The Zoo’s cubs have an important future as ambassadors for a species, protected under the Endangered Species Act, which faces grave threats in their native habitat. “Human activities have a direct effect on Polar Bears,” Dr. Meyerson said, “and their plight should encourage all of us to decrease our carbon footprint.”

Polar Bears in United States zoos are managed by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), established by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Through this cooperative breeding and conservation program, zoos nationwide work together to maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations.

Jeff Sailer, the Zoo’s executive director, said, “As the number of Polar Bears in the wild decreases, it’s more important than ever that cubs in zoo settings serve as ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild. We hope these cubs inspire our visitors to join us in caring for Polar Bears and their environment.”


Introducing a Fuzzy White Snowball Baby at Buffalo Zoo!

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New York's Buffalo Zoo has a lot to celebrate these days. Not only did their new Polar Bear cub meet the public for the first time Friday, the zoo has entered a new phase of fundraising for an exhibit that will help keep Polar Bears in Buffalo. The Western New York zoo is one of only two zoos in North America to have Polar Bear births this year. The cub was born on November 27th to mother Anana, sired by Nanuq, and has been hand raised by the zoo’s veterinary technician and keeper staff.

The Buffalo Zoo has spent the past two years raising over $14 million of the $18 million needed to build a new entrance and Polar Bear exhibit. They are now asking residents of Western New York and the surrounding community to help raise the remaining $4 million required to build the exhibit and keep Polar Bears in Buffalo.

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Photo credits: Kelly Brown / Buffalo Zoo 

Though the cub is currently too small to go on exhibit for the public, she will be visible on a closed-circuit television in the Zoo’s M&T Bank Rainforest Falls Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. until 3.p.m. The Zoo will also post regular updates to their website and Facebook page.

 Many more pics below the fold!

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Piké The Polar Bear Celebrates Her 30th Birthday at SF Zoo!

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Last month, Santa sent 10 tons of fresh snow to help San Francisco Zoo celebrate the birthdays of San Francisco’s two special Polar Bears, Piké (30) and Ulu (32), two of the oldest Bears in accredited AZA zoos in the United States. Since the life span of a Polar Bear in the wild is approximately 15 years, the incredible longevity of these Polar Bears is a testament to the SF Zoo’s commitment to animal wellness and to the specialists at the SF Zoo who care for them. The incredible vintage video below (and these highlight screen grab images) shows Piké's adventures as a cub in her early days being hand-reared under the zoo's care.

Photo and video credit: San Francisco Zoo (photos) Paul Hedberg (video)

 

Remember that a portion of every sale of ZooBorns' new harcover book ZooBorns: The Next Generation, featuring Siku the baby Polar Bear, goes directly to wildlife conservation. Put a copy in someone's stocking today! Amazon: http://amzn.to/NBUmhm


Polar Bear Cubs Debut and Delight Dutch Zoo Visitors

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February 29th marked the official debut of The Netherlands' Ouwehands Zoo's Polar Bear cubs. Under the careful supervision of their mother 'Huggies', the cubs explored their outdoor exhibit for the first time. Born December 1st of 2011, the twins play a crucial role in educating their visiting public about the plight of this highly endangered species. Climate change is melting the sea ice on which this majestic creature depends for its survival in the wild, pushing Polar Bears to the brink of extinction.

Ouwehands' Polar Bear group consists of seven individuals; Victor, the twins' father, Freedom and her two cubs Siku and Sesi, Huggies and her two yet unnamed cubs.

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Photo credits: Rob Doolaard, Robert Pleizier

The following video is in Dutch, but shows the cubs in action...