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Polar bears on the move

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Thu, Nov 24th 2016 01:20 am
Sakari (Photo courtesy of Henry Vilas Zoo)
Sakari (Photo courtesy of Henry Vilas Zoo)

On Monday, three polar bears from three different zoos traveled a combined 1,600 miles to their new homes. The Buffalo Zoo teamed up with the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens and the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin, as part of a species survival plan recommendation to support polar bear conservation.

As announced last week, Anana the polar bear was to leave Buffalo. She has safely arrived in Cincinnati, where she will eventually be introduced to male Little One. At the same time, Berit, a female from Cincinnati, traveled to Madison. Henry Vilas' male, Sakari, arrived in Western New York to ultimately be introduced to the Buffalo Zoo's Luna.

With low reproduction rates and a declining population, this three-way shuffle was recommended by the polar bear SSP, with the hope that it could provide the best chances for reproductive success for all bears involved.

"The Buffalo Zoo is proud to be a part of such a major undertaking," President and CEO Dr. Donna Fernandes said. "It is incredibly important that we continue to work together to help save this vulnerable species. By moving these bears to their new homes, it gives each zoo a chance to work towards the conservation of the species."

There are less then 70 polar bears in human care in North America. According to the Population Viability Analyses produced by AZA's polar bear SSP in 2012, if no changes are made over the next 20 years, the population is projected to strongly decline.

"These moves are in the best interest for the polar bear population," Buffalo Zoo General Curator Malia Somerville said. "Anana, along with daughter Luna, are very important to the polar bear population, and it is essential that we give them the opportunity to preserve their species."

Anana is one of a small set of females in North America that has given birth in the past five years in human care. She and Luna's genetics make them prime candidates for the SSP recommendation.

"Although we were sad to say goodbye to Anana, we are incredibly excited to welcome Sakari and introduce him to Luna with the hope they will mate in the future," Somerville added.

Sakari, the 3-year-old polar bear, comes to Buffalo from the Henry Vilas Zoo, where he lived with his twin sister, Suka. His favorite activity is swimming and he enjoys participating in training sessions. One behavior the public at Henry Vilas Zoo really enjoyed was him standing up on his hind legs to show his full height.

Sakari's new home at the Buffalo Zoo will be at the Garman Family Arctic Edge exhibit - following standard post-transfer health quarantine.

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