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Under the watchful eye of their mother, the Toledo Zoo’s two new polar bear cubs spent Monday morning playfully chasing and splashing each other in their private swimming pool.
The cubs, which were born on Nov. 21, will make their first public appearance in early May, said Andi Norman, the zoo’s director of marketing and public relations. Local media were invited to sneak a peek at the young cubs and their mother Crystal, on Monday.
Dr. Randi Meyerson, assistant director of animal programs, said no date has yet been set for the cub’s public debut because zoo officials want to make sure Crystal and her cubs have time to bond privately. Zoo employees also are keeping their distance, she said.
“We let the bears determine when we can approach,” Dr. Meyerson said. “We try not to stress mom. If nothing’s going wrong, we leave them alone.”
One reason why the bears have been kept in isolation is so that the cubs “learn how to be polar bears,” Dr. Meyerson said.
The cubs — an 80-pound male and a 70-pound female — have not yet been named, Ms. Norman said. A contest is being held to allow the public to help select names for them. The Blade is one of the contest’s media sponsors.
“Name the Toledo Zoo Polar Bear Cubs” entries must be received by the zoo by noon May 1.
For directions on how to vote, visit the zoo’s Web site at www.toledozoo.org.
The cubs and mother appear to be bonding well and show no signs of stress, Dr. Meyerson said. Crystal is noted for her calm, patient demeanor.
Her babies were in a playful mood on Monday. As Crystal snacked on buckets of dog kibble, fish, carrots, and lettuce, the cubs took turns chasing each other around in their playing quarters. They also repeatedly jumped into their 9-foot deep swimming pool, sometimes leaping on each other, other times resurfacing with captured fish.
When the cubs are about 2 years old they will be given to other zoos, Dr. Meyerson said. Two other adult polar bears are in the Toledo exhibit.
Although popular with visitors, very few zoos across the country still have polar bear exhibits, she said. Polar bears for a time were nearly extinct because of hunting, but as their numbers in the wild started to increase again, many zoos in the late 1990s and early 2000s phased out their exhibits, which are very costly to maintain.
The species’ survival is again at risk because of global climate change, Dr. Meyerson said.
“These cubs will play a great role in educating about global changes,” she said.
Crystal, who is about 15 years old, has now given birth to four cubs total, Dr. Meyerson said. If the 500-pound Crystal remains healthy she will be able to continue bearing cubs into her 20s.
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