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Friday, December 13, 2013

Toronto Zoo's journey to save the lone Polar Bear cub

 One Month Update

As a leader in conservation and species survival the Toronto Zoo has been proudly and actively involved for a number of years in a collaborative research project, involving multiple accredited zoos, to understand polar bear reproductive biology.

Therefore, on Saturday, November 9, 2013 Toronto Zoo staff was delighted to find that Aurora, one of the Toronto Zoo's two female polar bears, gave birth to three male cubs. Despite Aurora showing perfect maternal instincts, including nursing the cubs shortly after their birth, staff were saddened to discover that two of the three cubs did not survive the first 48 hours.

After monitoring Aurora and the remaining cub 24 hours a day, on Monday, November 11, 2013 staff observed the lone cub no longer moving as strongly as before and a decision had to be made. The best chance of survival meant transferring the cub, which weighed less than 700 grams, to the Zoo's intensive care unit in the Wildlife Health Centre (WHC). 

Once the cub was moved to the WHC, the team consisting of veterinary and wildlife care staff experts began the continuous process of monitoring his temperature, taking blood samples, weighing him and feeding him a special formula to help build up his strength. This was crucial given that the first three months of a cub's life are critical for its survival.

We are happy to report that the surviving cub is making progress.  His coat is gradually becoming thicker and he continues to grow stronger each day. Despite the fact that his eyes will not open until 40 days after birth, other milestones have been passed. He began showing his contentment by purring on November 15th, crawling on November 17th and rolling over for the first time on November 23rd.

The cub remains in a temperature controlled environment and enjoys seven feedings per day, each followed by an exercise session to help his growth and development. At the present time he is becoming more active and mobile, and is asserting his personality by growling and calling to staff. While it still remains day-to-day with a cub so young, the team remains hopeful with this small survivor.

The Toronto Zoo is actively working with other organizations including Polar Bears International (PBI), Parks Canada and the North American Species Survival Plan (SSP) to provide valuable polar bear education, research and conservation efforts in the wild. "Polar bears are one of Canada's national treasures and we cannot afford to have them become extinct" said Maria Franke, Curator of Mammals at the Toronto Zoo. "It is this team approach that will certainly make a difference for this magnificent species".  

CLICK HERE to check out our web page with pictures and more information.

Toronto Zoo is accredited by CAZA (Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums). Look for this logo whenever you visit a Canadian zoo as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things.

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