Zoo hopes sparks fly between pair of polar bears

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Brookfield Zoo hoping sparks fly between polar bears
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Love is in the air at Brookfield Zoo...sort of.

CHICAGO, IL -- Love is in the air at Brookfield Zoo...sort of.

The zoo is hoping their two polar bears, Hudson and Nan, will decide they're meant for each other and that polar bear cubs are on the way within the year.

Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

But, not all romances are perfect from start to finish.

"How do I love thee? I love thee to the depths of the Arctic Ocean to the widths of the frozen tundra to the bottom of my cold, cold heart. I am Hudson, Brookfield Zoo's big male polar bear, and this is Nan, my new girlfriend from the Toledo Zoo. She arrived last month and her assignment is simple: Get together romantically with me."

"They're together successfully. We haven't seen them breed yet, but everything looks positive so far," said mammal curator Amy Roberts.

They are just getting to know each other. Sometimes they like what they see and sometimes they don't. But it's all part of a very important process because polar bears are disappearing in the wild. Climate change is melting sea ice.

So that's why Hudson has to make such a big splash here. Polar bear cubs in zoos are needed to save a species. So far, not a lot of romance and Hudson will just have to shake it off. But behind the scenes, things are looking a little better. Cameras are catching the courtship from all angles.

"Sometimes they'll sleep on top of each other, as they get more and more comfortable. No bear hugs," said Anne Scott, lead keeper of large carnivores.

Nan is 22 years old and Hudson is only 10, but they're still a perfect match. That's because of Nan's perfect DNA, zookeepers say.

"Nan is actually wild-born. She was found under someone's deck in Barrow, Alaska, when she was about four months and then raised professionally in zoos at that time," said Scott.

And that's the perfect mix. Wild genes combined with a zoo animal, so there's no inbreeding.

But first they have to fall into tundra love. They can't just be two bears passing in the night.

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