There may yet be unforeseen challenges for the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s new International Polar Bear Conservation Centre (IPBCC).
But the acclimatization of Hudson, the centre’s new 15 month-old polar bear and first inhabitant — who made his first public appearance this past Valentine’s Day — may be the least of anyone’s worries, says Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s president and chief executive officer Margaret.
"I don’t think he’s going to be a challenge," Redmond laughed. "He’s a bit of a ham."
Amid delighted laughs, squeals and cries of "There he is!", Hudson made a lively, playful debut for assembled media, dignitaries and the public in his newly renovated polar bear enclosure, which is triple its original size.
While onlookers may have been shivering, Hudson was clearly in his element.
"He’s been like that since Day One," said Tim Sinclair-Smith, director of zoological operations. "He’s a champ."
Hudson can now be visited daily at the Zoo, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
After arriving from Toronto on Jan. 29 — a flight he slept through — Hudson quickly "figured out he loved" the snow and cold temperatures, Sinclair-Smith continued.
"He started playing with his toys right away. I think the biggest challenge will be that he’s so hyper."
Born at the Toronto Zoo in Oct., 2011, Hudson was rejected by his mother but cared for by zoo staff through his early development. He later drew large crowds.
In Winnipeg, Hudson will be a founding member of the IPBCC’s breeding program, and "an ambassador of the species." The International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, with Hudson as its new poster boy, will study the perils of climate change and the transformation of the polar bear’s northern habitat, Redmond said.
"As goes the polar bear, so goes the planet," Manitoba premier Greg Selinger said at the press conference.
Also present at Hudson’s unveiling were Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz, Manitoba Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship Gord Mackintosh, Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) and Conservancy chair Hartley Richardson, who is also president and CEO of James Richardson & Sons, Ltd.
The IPBCC, which focuses on polar bear transition, research and education, opened Jan. 23, 2012, as part of Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s overall 10-year, $200 million redevelopment plan, which includes the already-completed Qualico Family Centre and duck pond.
The Conservancy’s ongoing fundraising effort entered its public phase this past summer as work continues on phases two and three: the construction of the interactive, multimedia Journey to Churchill exhibit, scheduled for completion in 2014, and development of a new conservatory.
Hudson’s lifespan may reach 40 years, Sinclair-Smith said.