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Staff Reports

Polar bear twins

Polar bear twins

POWELL – Polar bear fans were met with an adorable sight at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium recently — for the first time, they were able to view one of the three cubs welcomed into the Zoo family in November 2016.

Just before the cub’s debut, Columbus Zoo President and CEO Tom Stalf also greeted the excited guests with a surprise “cub gender reveal” announcement: there are two female cubs and one male cub living at the Zoo! Aurora, mother to twins, has a male and female cub while her own twin, Anana, has a daughter (who was the first to make her public appearance with her mother).

As part of the reveal, staff lit blue or pink LED lights strung around four Serbian spruce trees planted in honor of each of the cubs born in the Zoo’s Polar Frontier habitat since its opening. In addition to the two pink-lit trees and one blue-lit was a tree adorned in white lights to represent Nora, a female polar bear who was born in 2015 and now resides at the Oregon Zoo. Following the Zoo’s mission to protect wildlife and wild places, staff chose to honor the significance of these cubs’ births by planting trees to reduce our carbon footprint and to show simple green actions everyone can take to benefit polar bears—and their sea ice—in the bears’ native Arctic ranges.

“The births are very special as the cubs are the only three polar bears born in a North American zoological facility in 2016. I am very proud of our keepers at the Columbus Zoo, who are not only dedicated to the animals in their care but also protecting these animals’ counterparts in their native ranges,” said Stalf. “We couldn’t be more pleased to share this success and the excitement of this day with our supporters in Central Ohio and around the world. In line with the Zoo’s commitment to connecting people and wildlife, these cubs are a reminder to all of us that the actions we take matter. They matter to our world, and they matter to the future of this species.”

In addition to the “gender reveal” announcement, the public has also been invited to help name Anana’s female cub by casting their vote for their favorite of four names. This naming opportunity, presented by Kroger, is available online at from now until May 2. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds staff will name Aurora’s twins through one of the many employee initiatives raising funds for conservation. The names of all three cubs will be announced on Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017.

The three cubs will not be on view together as female polar bears typically raise their young independently. While the public was able to view Anana’s cub today, Aurora’s twins made their first public appearance on April 20, 2017. For their well-being, public viewing schedules are determined by the bears and are not known by Zoo staff much in advance.

About the Columbus Zoo’s polar bears:

First-time mother, Anana, gave birth to her female cub on November 8. Now at 5 months old, this cub weighs just over 75 pounds. The cub was originally a twin, but unfortunately, the cub’s twin did not survive. The survival rate for a polar bear cub during the first few weeks of life is only about 50 percent. As visitors observed this morning, this healthy, active cub loves to play in the water and snuggle with mom. One of the cub’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 and female—also weigh approximately 75 pounds and enjoy wrestling with one another, which sometimes helps give their attentive mom a short but much-needed break.

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.


The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium mourns the loss of adult male polar bear, Nanuq, who was humanely euthanized this morning (April 27) after a comprehensive medical examination by the Zoo’s veterinary staff and specialists from MedVet this week confirmed that he had liver cancer (suspected to be hepatobiliary carcinoma). At 29 years old, Nanuq (NAN-nook) surpassed the 20.7-year median life expectancy for male polar bears in a North American zoo by more than eight years. A full necropsy (animal autopsy) has been scheduled per standard Zoo protocol. The Columbus Zoo now has five polar bears—female polar bear twins, Aurora and Anana, and three 5-month-old cubs (a male and two females).

Nanuq was a geriatric bear with age-related conditions requiring special medical attention that was administered by both the Zoo’s veterinary team and his dedicated care providers. His care providers worked to establish a trusting relationship with him that resulted in his voluntary participation of medical treatments ranging from accepting eye drops twice per day to receiving allergy serum drops under his tongue. However, in mid-February, animal care staff noticed clinical signs of illness and decreased activity in Nanuq, resulting in veterinary staff conducting a thorough medical examination. Blood work indicated reduced liver function, and while he initially showed some improvement with medical management, the staff became more concerned when his symptoms recently returned. Suspecting liver cancer, the veterinarians worked with MedVet to perform an abdominal ultrasound, which revealed multiple masses in his liver. Treatment options were limited and considered to be high-risk and ultimately ineffective, while also likely to contribute to an increasingly rapid decline of Nanuq’s welfare and quality of life.

“It is always a difficult time when we lose an animal, especially one as beloved as Nanuq,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Tom Stalf. “From the time that he was rescued as an orphaned cub, he has been an ambassador to his counterparts in the Arctic, reminding us of the importance of protecting polar bears and their sea ice. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will always remember him and continue working to protect his species.”

After his rescue in Alaska in April 1988, he lived at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Wisconsin until 2009 when he was moved to the Buffalo Zoo. There, he fathered female cub, Luna, who was born in 2012. Nanuq came to the Columbus Zoo on Oct. 16, 2012 from the Buffalo Zoo.

Nanuq sired four litters at the Columbus Zoo with female polar bears Aurora and Anana based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan® (SSP). These births are important to the survival of this species, which in 2008 became the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened primarily due to climate change. Nanuq was the father to Nora, who now resides at the Oregon Zoo, and the three polar bear cubs, who were born at the Columbus Zoo in November 2016. Male polar bears are not involved in rearing cubs, so he enjoyed access to the Zoo’s Polar Frontier habitat separately.

Polar bears have one of the lowest reproductive rates of any mammal. Born blind, helpless and weighing less than a pound in weight, these mammals have only a 50 percent survival rate in their first weeks of life, both in the Arctic and in human care. The Columbus Zoo is the only zoo in North America that had polar bear cubs born in 2016.

“Nanuq was incredibly special to all of us who had the wonderful opportunity to care for him, and we will miss him very much,” said Carrie Pratt, curator of the Zoo’s North American region and Polar Frontier habitat. “We take some comfort in knowing that Nanuq’s legacy will live on through his offspring and those he has inspired to help polar bears in their native Arctic range.”

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) 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 depend on solid sea ice to hunt, primarily for 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. The melting landscape creates a dangerous survival cycle for the bears; they have less solid ice from which to hunt. This forces the polar bears to have to swim greater distances in search of ice, which requires more calories that can only be consumed through more hunting. Some scientists believe that 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 the tundra and, since 2008, has contributed more than $250,000 to research benefiting polar bears in the Arctic. In recognition of the Columbus Zoo’s conservation and education programs, Polar Bears International has designated the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium an Arctic Ambassador Center.



The ever-popular Dinosaur Island will be back from extinction this summer at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Visitors will feel they’re traveling back in time—65 million years—on a prehistoric adventure that features more than 20 life-sized, animatronic dinosaurs throughout the Australia and the Islands region of the Zoo. Made of steel with a urethane waterproof skin, the dinosaurs have eyes that shift and blink, tails that move, mouths that make loud noises, and electronic “brains” that activates and controls their movements and sounds. The result is a thrilling experience that is sure to delight visitors of all ages! Starting May 27 and running through Oct. 31, guests will have the chance to enjoy this expedition by foot path and water taxis. A special admission ticket is required for entrance and is not included with Zoo admission. For more information about the Zoo’s summer happenings, please visit

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.

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Staff Reports

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

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