Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/2/2017 (1262 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Juno, a 15-month-old female polar bear from the Toronto Zoo, is coming to Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo on March 1.
Juno will be coming to Winnipeg to socialize with other polar bears closer to her age and size.
Juno's arrival in Winnipeg will be like a visit from family; Juno is the younger sister of Hudson and Humphrey, who both lived in Assiniboine Park Zoo's Journey to Churchill exhibit before moving back to the Toronto Zoo last October. Both Hudson and Humphrey were born at the Toronto Zoo.
Juno was born at the Toronto Zoo on Nov. 11, 2015. She was the only survivor in a litter of two but was raised by zoo staff when her mother couldn’t produce milk.
Juno will be quarantined in Winnipeg for the standard 30 days and then live in the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. She will eventually be introduced to Nanuq and Siku, two polar bear cubs already living there.
"We're excited because with the facility we have and the bears we have, we have the opportunity to provide Juno with some socialization with some bears her own age and similar size," said Johanna Soto, the Assiniboine Park Zoo's curator of animal care and behavioural husbandry.
"Because she was the only surviving cub in a litter of two, she was closely monitored and cared for by the Toronto staff in the early stages of her life and so didn't have that sibling. Being with our bears will help her learn how to communicate with bears, in body language and vocal signals."
Soto said interacting with other polar bears is important to their well-being to help give them the best possible life in captivity.
"What we have found with the bears we have now, and we've introduced different bears to each other, they really do appear to enjoy each other's company. We find that after the initial introduction, they give other signals while they're introducing themselves to each other, usually we find between 24 and 48 hours later, they're playing together."
Jeff Young, the supervisor of wildlife care — Americas at the Toronto Zoo, said Winnipeg was the perfect place for Juno because of Nanuq and Siku.
"We're just not in a position right now where we have a bear of comparable size to introduce her to and they (Assiniboine Park Zoo staff) have done numerous introductions with the bears they've received," Young said. "We're partners with them and we think it's a wonderful opportunity for Juno and Assiniboine (Zoo)."
At the Toronto Zoo, Juno can see other bears but is protected from them by a wire mesh barrier. Young said it's called the "Howdy" program, where she can be around the other bears but not with them. In Winnipeg, Nanuq and Siku will model bear behaviour for her and include her.
Young said Juno weighs about 120 kilograms. The other Toronto Zoo polar bears are older, bigger and stronger, raising safety concerns. By comparison, Juno's parents Aurora and Inukshuk, who live at the Toronto Zoo, weigh about 544 kg and 362 kg, respectively.
"It's an honour for us to look after polar bears. They are ambassadors. Imagine trying to tell someone about the plight of polar bears and not be able to see a living animal, to appreciate the beauty, how intuitive they are, the using of their sense of smell, the interactiveness with the public," Young said.
"You become engaged in trying to save polar bears, because they're not going to save themselves, and you're trying to help improve the environment."
In Winnipeg, there are seven other polar bears living in the Journey to Churchill exhibit — Storm, Aurora, Kaska, Blizzard, Star, York and Eli.
All nine bears at the Assiniboine Park Zoo were rescued following various circumstances that would have prevented them from continuing to live in the wild. There is no breeding program.
Soto said the seven polar bears in Journey to Churchill are living in two social groups. The female bears Aurora, Kaska and Star along with Storm, a neutered male, live together in one part of the polar bear habitat. Living in another area are the young males York, Eli and Blizzard.
"Blizzard was introduced to York and Eli in November and within 48 hours, the three of them were sleeping together, exploring together so they do create these social groups when they're comfortable with each other and they will do things together," Soto said. "It is really great to watch because it does provide them with enrichment and the ability to just be a bear."
Young said there is no timeline set for how long Juno will be in Winnipeg once she is introduced to Nanuq and Siku. There will be regular communication between the Toronto Zoo and Assiniboine Park Zoo to monitor Juno's progress.
With their names announced last month from results of the zoo's online poll, Nanuq's name is the Inuit word for polar bear and Siku is the Inuit word for ice.
Juno, named in honour of Juno Beach, a historic Canadian landing spot on D-Day in the Second World War, was adopted by the Canadian Forces. She was born on Remembrance Day in 2015.
Hudson, the first polar bear to live in Journey to Churchill exhibit, came to Winnipeg from Toronto in January 2013. Humphrey, Hudson's younger brother from another litter, came to Winnipeg from Toronto in March 2015.
Updated on Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 9:22 AM CST: Updated
1:07 PM: writethrough
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.