Male polar bear from Denver Zoo coming to Columbus for breeding

2018-10-03 | The Columbus Dispatch

Oct. 03--Zoo employees in Columbus and Denver are playing matchmaker for an eligible polar-bear bachelor.

In hopes of continuing the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium's successful breeding program, the Denver Zoo has agreed to move an 18-year-old male polar bear, Lee, to Columbus later this fall. There, he'll be introduced to two potential mates, 11-year-old twin female polar bears Aurora and Anana.

In 2016, both of the twins gave birth: Anana to Amelia Gray, a female; and Aurora to twins Neva and Nuniq, a female and male, respectively. They were the only polar bear cubs born in a North American zoo in 2016. Nuniq recently moved to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. Amelia Gray and Neva are set to move soon to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

Aurora also gave birth to a female cub, Nora, in 2015, who has since been moved to Utah's Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City.

Nanuq, the 29-year-old father to all the cubs, was euthanized last year after developing liver cancer.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a nonprofit group of more than 230 accredited members in the United States and abroad, recommended that Lee be moved to Columbus to ensure that breeding continues, to increase the number of polar bears in member zoos, and to maximize the population's genetic diversity.

There are 44 polar bears in North American zoos.

In 2008, the species was the first to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, primarily because of climate change.

Polar bear populations are declining as sea ice disappears, and experts estimate that only 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears are left in their native ranges. Some scientists think if the warming trend continues, two-thirds of the polar bear population could disappear by 2050.