Zoo plays matchmaker to polar bears

Nuka (Photo credit: Detroit Zoo)

By Mike Fossano

As one of only 11 female polar bears at zoos nationwide eligible for breeding, the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) has a real starlet on their hands with 7-year-old Talini. Conservation officials are hoping that she and newcomer Nuka, also 7-years old, will prove to be a perfect match for one another by March, the start of polar bear breeding season.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Polar Bear Species Survival Plan hooked the eligible parties up together as a part of their efforts to maintain the polar bear population.

The polar bear is found throughout five polar nations in the Northern Hemisphere and with a population hovering below 25,000 worldwide, the species is considered “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. They reside along the shores of the Arctic Sea in the summer and on the sea ice during the winter, but greenhouse gas emissions that cause sea ice to melt threatens their survival, according to reports from the DZS.

The 10-foot, 890-pound Nuka came to the Detroit Zoo via the Pittsburgh Zoo and now lives in the Arctic Ring of Life exhibit, where he’ll immediately get familiar with the in-laws, with Talini’s mother 27-year-old Bärle also counting the exhibit as her residence.

The pair of bears were matched based on their age, health, lineage and other factors.

“The personalities of the bears will be significant to the success of this important matchmaking,” said Detroit Zoological Society Chief Life Sciences Officer Scott Carter. “There are no guarantees, but we’re optimistic that Talini and Nuka will be compatible and Detroit Zoo visitors will be seeing a polar bear cub in 2013.”

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