Zoo’s newest cub

The Toronto Zoo soon to unveil the newest member of its polar bear family to the public and is seeking a name for the endangered animal

On Oct. 11, 2011 a polar bear gave birth to three cubs. The mother, Aurora, rejected her cubs, eating one and killing another.

Fortunately, workers at the Toronto Zoo were able to save the last cub. He made his debut when he was three-and-a-half months old, and the zoo is currently holding a Name Our Cub contest.

The cub is being put on display for the zoo’s visitors to see. The cub’s habitat includes a wading pond, and some sticks, toys and ice blocks for him to play with.

Andrea Dada, a health clerk at the Toronto Zoo, helped to prepare the cub for exhibition.

“We wanted to ensure that he was healthy and eating well on his own,” she said. “We also wanted to make sure he was walking on his own and comfortable in his environment and that the exhibit met his needs.”

On May 14, 2008, polar bears were placed on the endangered species list as a result of global warming.

Nicole Birmingham, a third-year animal biology student at the University of Guelph, applauds the initiative the zoo is taking but thinks the animals belong elsewhere.

“I think that the best place for an endangered species is in a preserve or conservation area. They can be observed and researched, all their needs can be met and they will have an opportunity to perform all their natural behaviours,” she said.

Dada disagrees.

“Accredited zoos, focused on conservation and education, are important resources for the survival of endangered species,” she said. “Although it is ideal that endangered animals remain in the wild, the circumstances in their natural habitat may make survival difficult or impossible.”

Dada said the polar bear will most likely stay at the zoo until he outgrows his enclosure. He would later be moved to another facility and be introduced to other bears to participate in a breeding program.

“At this time, captive-born polar bears are not being reintroduced into the wild because they have adapted to humans and have not learned the skills necessary for survival in the wild,” she said.

While the zoo uses breeding as a way to prop up the population of endangered species, it’s never guaranteed to be a success.

“Some endangered species have difficulty procreating in captivity. A preserve or conservation area would give them their required space,” Birmingham said.

The Toronto Zoo has programs, such as the the endangered species reserve fund, and the captive breeding and reintroduction program, in place. The reserve fund raises money for research to help with the conservation of endangered species. The reintroduction program aims to breed endangered species in the hope of one day releasing them back into the wild.