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Twin nameless polar bear cubs recently born at the Toledo Zoo are expected to go on exhibit in May, if all goes as planned.
The cubs, who have yet to be named because their genders have not been identified, were born Nov. 21. Their mother, Crystal, 13, is caring for them off-exhibit where the zoo’s animal care staff is tracking their progress through a monitor in the den. The father of the twins is Marty, the zoo's resident male polar bear.
The monitoring is meant to relieve stress on the mother so she can concentrate on nurturing her babies, said Dr. Randi Meyerson, curator of mammals. Zoo employees have no physical contact with the mother and cubs at this point.
The zoo is still considering how to go about naming them once their genders are determined, Dr. Meyerson said. The zoo might engage the public in the process, like it did back when Crystal’s last cub was born in December, 2009. A contest involving more than 80 schoolchildren from Alaska’s North Slope resulted in the name Siku.
“Crystal has been a great mom to her other litters and we expect the same with this one,” Dr. Meyerson said.
This is the fourth litter of polar bears the zoo has had since 2006, Dr. Meyerson said. Siku is now at the Louisville Zoo. Two litters were born late in 2006 that made their public debut in May, 2007. Twins were born to Crystal (Anana and Aurora, now at the Columbus Zoo) and another polar bear Nan had a single cub, Nikita, who is now at the Kansas City Zoo.
The cubs will get their first physical exam when they are between three and four months of age. They will spend the next several months learning to swim and building strength so they can safely navigate the polar bear exhibit, she said.
“We don’t rush it. We make sure they are at a point that they will be safe and secure going out into such a large area,” Dr. Meyerson said.
The zoo’s cubs have an important future as ambassadors for a species, protected under the Endangered Species Act, which faces grave threats in its native habitat because of climate change. Human activities have a direct effect on polar bears, and the plight of polar bears should encourage all of us to decrease our carbon footprint, Dr. Meyerson said.
Because polar bears are such charismatic animals, they offer an opportunity to interest people, particularly children, in engaging with nature, said Jeff Sailer, the zoo’s executive director.
“My hope is they will really be great ambassadors,” he said. “They are a wonderful poster species for issues in the Arctic and, really, issues around the planet. They are considered marine mammals, so they are really a nice flagship species for the health of the world’s oceans.”
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