Orphaned polar bear cub moved to Winnipeg Zoo

An orphaned polar bear cub from Churchill is settling in to her new home at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, but not everyone thinks the bear should have been removed from the wild.
The new polar bear cub will join Hudson the polar bear, shown here at five months, who was born in captivity in the Toronto Zoo, but rejected by his mother. (Courtesy Assiniboine Park Zoo)

An orphaned polar bear cub is settling in to her new home at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, but not everyone thinks the bear should have been removed from the wild.

The 11-month-old female cub was found wandering near Churchill’s airport. Zoo officials said they conducted an extensive search of the area for for a female bear before coming to the conclusion that the cub was indeed orphaned.

John Iacozza, a senior instructor instructor with the department of environment and geography at the University of Manitoba, says sometimes nature should be left alone.

"Let it kind of try to survive in the wild,” he says of the cub. “Probably with a low probability, but still, it may have had a chance.”

The University of Manitoba's John Iacozza says sometimes nature should be left alone. (University of Manitoba)

Zoo officials said they also prefer polar bears remain in the wild, but there are no known instances of orphaned cubs surviving on their own in the wild.

Don Peterkin is the Chief Operations Officer for the Assiniboine Park Conservancy. In a news release, he said the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre at the zoo was built exactly for this purpose — "to house and transition orphaned polar bear cubs that would otherwise not survive on their own.”

At 38 kilograms, the polar bear cub was slightly underweight. She’s small enough to get your arms around, but definitely not cuddly-sized.

Third polar bear to join exhibit

The polar bear cub is the third bear to join the zoo’s International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, which focuses on research and conservation of polar bears and other Arctic species.

Two-year-old Hudson was one of three cubs born in the Toronto Zoo in October of 2011 and the only one to survive. The mother, a 10-year-old bear named Aurora, rejected all three cubs, killing one and injuring another that later died.

Three-year-old Storm arrived in Winnipeg last month after attacking a Winnipeg man in Churchill in September. Storm was held in a month-long quarantine while he adapted to his new surroundings. He’s being kept in separate quarters from Hudson.

Zoo staff hoped that ultimately the female cub will take part in the zoo’s breeding program.

The zoo plans to display all three bears, and possibly one more currently being held in Argentina, in a new exhibit titled Journey to Churchill beginning in the summer of 2014.

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