Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Orphaned female cub arrives at zoo's polar bear centre

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THERE'S a new girl in town.

An orphaned polar bear cub from Churchill, a 38-kilogram female about 11 months old, has been transferred to Assiniboine Park Zoo. She will be the first female resident and the first orphaned cub at the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.

The little cub was found wandering on her own, with no sign of her mother, late last week by natural resources officers near the Churchill airport.

The zoo provided photos and a terrific video of the young bear his morning, however, she will not be on exhibit for about a month.

Don Peterkin, chief operations officer for the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, said bringing the cub to the IPBCC is saving her life.

"The IPBCC was built for orphaned cubs. We recognized that there would be other needs but we all have a soft spot for an 11-month-old cub who has lost Mom and has no chance of survival in the wild at all. She's just too young to ever hope to survive on her own," Peterkin said, noting polar bear cubs normally stay with their mothers for two years.

"It's one of those feel-good stories that we can save her. It's a shame that you have an animal like this that you have to take from the wild, but with no chance of survival, it's the only thing that makes sense."

Dr. Brian Joseph, the zoo's director of zoological operations, and Dr. Chris Enright, head of the zoo's veterinary services, had travelled to Churchill and flew back to Winnipeg with the cub on Monday night.

Already residing at the polar bear facility are two male bears -- the 257-kilogram Hudson and the 128-kg, yet-to-be-named polar bear who arrived at the facility Oct. 9, also from Churchill. That bear had bitten a man in town, but was relocated rather than euthanized.

"At this time, we'll have three bears in three enclosures," Peterkin said.

"She'll have to go through the (standard, 30-day) quarantine like everyone else, any time we bring an animal in.

"You want to make sure you're not bringing any diseases or parasites or anything that could spread in the zoo population."

When the new male bear has completed his time in its quarantine period, zoo staff are hoping to introduce the two male bears in the weeks following, with the goal of having them share an enclosure and keep each other company.

The zoo could add a fourth polar bear as well. Officials from the Winnipeg zoo will head to Argentina on Sunday to determine if a polar bear at the Mendoza Zoo is healthy enough to be transferred here.

The zoo's Journey to Churchill exhibit is under contruction and expected to open in the summer of 2014.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2013 A6

History

Updated on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 11:05 AM CDT: Adds video

11:45 AM: Slideshow added.

11:54 AM: Updated with additional information.

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