POWELL – The three polar bear cubs born at the Columbus Zoo in November have received their much-anticipated names: Amelia Gray, Neva (NEE-vah), and Nuniq (NEW-nick)!
To help determine the perfect name for Anana’s female cub, Zoo staff enlisted the assistance of the public, who were invited to cast their votes for their favorite of four names: Amelia Gray, Denali, Vieta, or Elisapee. The naming opportunity, presented by Kroger, ran from April 19 to May 2, and garnered 45,998 votes representing 69 countries.
The clear favorite (receiving approximately 50 percent of the votes) was Amelia Gray, followed by Denali (10,200 votes), Vieta (7,516 votes), and Elisapee (4,406 votes). The name Amelia means “defender,” which represents that she is a conservation protector for her species. She also has a unique, distinct patch of gray fur on the left side of her neck.
“We are proud to have collaborated with Kroger on this naming opportunity as both the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and Kroger share core values of community and sustainability. Through engaging with the public and cultivating connections between people and these amazing animals, we hope to inspire more people to take action to help this species,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Tom Stalf. “While all of the names were great options, the name Amelia Gray perfectly suits Anana’s cub. Not only she is she sure to help protect the future of her species, but she also represents how we can all be moved to act as defenders of polar bears.”
Aurora’s twins—female, Neva and male, Nuniq—were named through one of the many employee initiatives raising funds for conservation, resulting in several thousand dollars being raised to benefit wildlife around the world. Two employees from the Zoo’s North America team were awarded the opportunity to name the twins: Neva, which means “white snow” (and is also a river in Russia), and Nuniq, which is a derivative of Nanuq. Nanuq was the cubs’ father, and he was humanely euthanized in April after the Zoo’s veterinary staff and other medical specialists determined through a comprehensive medical examination that his recent declining health was the result of liver cancer. Nanuq was beloved among Zoo staff, who decided that selecting a derivative of Nanuq for the male cub would be a good way to continue honoring his legacy.
The naming announcement took place in front of excited guests, many of whom also came to the Zoo to celebrate Mother’s Day with their families. One special visitor, a 10-year-old (human!) from Springfield, Ohio, loves polar bears and helped announce the name of Anana’s cub, Amelia Gray, who (out of sheer coincidence) shares the same name as the young guest. All mothers received free Zoo admission today with a paid child’s admission.
Anana and her cub, Amelia, love to swim and dive together and are the best of friends. Keepers have also noted that Amelia’s favorite thing to do is steal trout from her mother, who happened to run off with one during the naming announcement as Amelia chased after her, to the delight of amused guests.
“Polar bear mothers are known to be some of the most dedicated among wildlife species. It has been incredible to watch Anana and Aurora raise the cubs, from nursing them and gently coaxing them into the water for swim lessons to now as they allow their cubs to be a little more independent while still keeping a protective eye on them,” said Ellie Shriver, a keeper in the Zoo’s North America region. “At the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, we’re excited to announce the cubs’ names on Mother’s Day as today also celebrates the bonds of family. Our Zoo family appreciates the support of our Central Ohio family as we all work together to make a positive impact on polar bears and other wildlife.”
About the Columbus Zoo’s polar bears:
First-time mother, Anana, gave birth to her female cub, Amelia Gray, on November 8. Now at 6 months old, this cub weighs 104 pounds. Amelia was originally a twin, but unfortunately, her twin did not survive. The survival rate for a polar bear cub during the first few weeks of life is only about 50 percent. Ever active, Amelia loves to play in the water and snuggle with mom. One of Amelia’s unique features is a small gray patch of fur located along the left side of her neck.
Anana’s own twin, Aurora, welcomed her cubs on November 14. The twin cubs—a male named Nuniq and a female named Neva—both love the water and enjoy wrestling with one another, which sometimes helps give their attentive mom a short but much-needed break. Neva currently weighs 92 pounds while her brother weighs 113 pounds. Though he is bigger than his sister, he was shyer than his sister when first exploring the Polar Frontier habitat. His favorite activities now include running around the yard, rolling in the mulch, and swimming. Like her brother, Neva likes to swim and thoroughly loves to belly flop into the pool. Her care providers say that she is very close to catching a fish and will most likely achieve her goal very soon.
The three cubs will not be on view together as female polar bears typically raise their young independently. For their well-being, public viewing schedules are determined by the bears and are not always known by Zoo staff much in advance.
Since their births, the polar bear mothers have been caring for their cubs in their dens and behind-the-scenes areas to ensure healthy development. After successfully completing “swim lessons,” the cubs have become acclimated to the outdoor habitat at Polar Frontier, where visitors learn more about this threatened species.
The breeding of Anana and Aurora with male, Nanuq, was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan® for threatened and endangered species.
Polar bears are native to the circumpolar north including the United States (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland). They are at the top of the Arctic food chain and primarily eat seals. Polar bear populations are declining due to the disappearance of sea ice, and experts estimate that only 20,000-25,000 polar bears are left in their native range. Some scientists believe if the warming trend continues, two-thirds of the polar bear population could disappear by the year 2050.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is dedicated to conserving polar bear populations in their native range.
Since 2008, the Zoo has contributed more than $250,000 to research benefiting polar bears in the Arctic. The Zoo is also designated as an Arctic Ambassador Center by Polar Bears International.
For the latest news about the cubs, follow the Columbus Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information about the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, please visit ColumbusZoo.org.
Home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 600 species from around the globe, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium leads and inspires by connecting people and wildlife. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Course. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; annually contributing more than $4 million of privately raised funds to support conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.