A former Denver polar bear named Lee has arrived at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, where he soon will be introduced to twin sisters Aurora and Anana in an effort to breed, officials say.
The polar bear hook-up is part of an intricate and somewhat desperate mating strategy in which the 50 polar bears living in North American zoos are often shuffled from one zoo to the next to improve the survival of the increasingly rare species.
Zoo officials hope that Lee and the sisters will produce cubs.
Lee’s primary keeper at the Denver Zoo accompanied the 18-year-old polar bear to the Columbus zoo, where Lee is “settling in well,” according to Jen Fields, spokeswoman for the Columbus Zoo.
“After completing a mandatory quarantine period upon his arrival, Lee will be introduced to 11-year-old twin sisters Aurora and Anana,” Fields said in a news release.
“Lee is an extremely important ambassador for his threatened species, and we are proud to be a part of efforts to help sustain the polar bear population, raise public awareness and support polar bear research in the Arctic,” said Tom Stalf, chief executive officer of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
The polar bear mating plan is often driven by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival plan.h2 data-curated-ids="" data-relation-type="automatic-primary-tag"">
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The Denver Zoo recently split up Lee and his longtime mate, 16-year-old female Cranbeary, after they failed to produce offspring. Cranbeary was sent to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage.
Cranbeary and Lee were the zoo’s only polar bears, but zookeepers promise they will work to bring more of the snowy white animals back to Denver.
Currently there are between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears in their native lands of Alaska, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark, Fields said.
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