(WKBW release) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday announced that the Buffalo Zoo is the planned destination, for the near future, for an orphaned polar bear cub found near Point Lay, Alaska, on March 12.
According to a news release:
The three-to-four month-old male, named Kali (pronounced cully) the Inupiat name for Point Lay), is currently receiving care at the Alaska Zoo but is expected to be safely transported to the Buffalo Zoo sometime this spring, pending final approvals and the health of the cub.
Kali will be introduced to the Buffalo Zoo’s female polar bear cub, born on November 27, 2012. She is being hand-raised by the Zoo’s veterinary and keeper staff due to inadequate care by the cub’s mother, Anana. The orphaned cub’s planned journey from Point Lay to Buffalo is the product of collaboration among the Alaska Zoo, the Buffalo Zoo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the AZA’s Polar Bear Species Survival Plan® management group.
“The Buffalo Zoo provides an excellent, short-term home for Kali, where his physical and developmental needs can be met,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Working in partnership with AZA, we are considering the Saint Louis Zoo as a possible final destination for Kali. We recognize that the Saint Louis Zoo is in the process of building a state-of-the-art polar bear exhibit expected to be completed in 2015. Our goal is to work with the Zoo to ensure the proper standards of care are met for the polar bears who will eventually find a home in St. Louis”
“At the Buffalo Zoo, both cubs would benefit from each other’s company during this important period in their development. Peer-raising animals is generally preferred over human-rearing whenever possible,” commented Dr. Randi Meyerson, coordinator of the Polar Bear SSP, one of the AZA’s cooperative population management programs and a critical component in assisting endangered and threatened species. “The Buffalo Zoo’s staff has more than 20 years of experience working with polar bears, including young animals. Eventually, after the cubs have been introduced to one another and are bonded and doing well, we will work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to find a permanent home for Kali in a facility that meets the latest husbandry standards adopted by the AZA.”
“We are pleased to collaborate with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service on the placement of this polar bear cub,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “As this species continues to face threats in the wild, AZA’s long-standing relationship with USFWS is becoming crucial to the survival of orphaned cubs. By working together, we are able to place the bears in AZA-accredited facilities, where the highest standards of animal care and welfare, conservation, education, research and veterinary services are met.”
“We are thrilled to have been chosen to receive Kali,” said Buffalo Zoo president Dr. Donna Fernandes. “Recovery of orphaned cubs is one of the reasons we are building our new polar bear habitat, Arctic Edge. Both cubs will benefit immensely from the opportunity to play with one another to ensure that they learn to be bears and not become too attached to human caretakers.”
“The rescue of this orphan polar bear may give us an opportunity to increase the genetic diversity of the bears in the care of AZA zoos and to further conservation, breeding and education about these bears,” said Dr. Jeffrey Bonner, Dana Brown President and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo. “We appreciate Fish and Wildlife Service’s leadership in responding to the plight of polar bears in the wild and know that their consideration of the Saint Louis Zoo as a final home for this bear is a testament to our more than 80 years of experience in caring for this species and to our plans to build a state-of-the-art polar bear exhibit.”
The Service will make a final determination on a permanent home based on consideration of multiple criteria, including staff experience and expertise, quality of facilities, and the age, sex and temperament of bears currently in the zoo’s collection. Zoos have been an important partner for the conservation of many species, and as climate change continues to threaten polar bear habitat the Service expects to work closely with AZA, the Polar Bear SSP and zoos across the country to ensure the proper placement and care of any additional polar bear cubs that may need future care.
The Buffalo Zoo is currently planning its new polar bear habitat, entitled Arctic Edge, a state-of-the-art facility for polar bears and other iconic Arctic species. Since announcing the public phase of the campaign on March 1, more than $500,000 has been raised, bringing the total commitments to $14.7 million of the required $18 million for the polar bear habitat and new entrance, currently under construction. Buffalo’s female cub, nicknamed Luna, is scheduled to return to the Buffalo Zoo when the new exhibit opens in 2015.