By Shawn Chitnis
DENVER (CBS4) – Two popular residents will be leaving the Denver Zoo. Staff announced Tuesday their two polar bears will be sent separately to two other zoos in the hopes they produce offspring with new mates.
“What we’re trying to do is ensure healthy of populations of the various species, and we do that with polar bears as well,” said Brian Aucone, senior vice president for animal sciences at the Denver Zoo. “We’re not sure what, specifically why they may or may not be producing offspring.”
Cranbeary, a 16-year-old female bear will leave this month for The Alaska Zoo, while Lee, the 18-year-old male bear, will depart next month for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The move comes as a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan.
“Polar bears are one of my favorite animals,” said Allison Harter. “I’m glad I was able to catch them before I was gone.”
Visitors were just learning about the decision to move the animals while exploring the zoo. The polar bears are a popular stop, families were passing by the exhibit throughout the day.
“They’re an iconic species for the zoo, we’ve had them here at the zoo and our guests love them,” he said.
Polar Bears are seen by 200 million guests at AZA locations across the country, according to Aucone. In order to have a sustainable population for families to enjoy the animals in the years to come, staff understand the move was needed.
As solitary animals for most of the year, polar bears usually mate in January or February. The zoo has tried to see these two mate for the past six years before agreeing to the move this year.
There is a book with information on the entire polar bear population living and dead, which helps to determine mates for the animals.
“So I don’t know if I’d call it Tinder,” he said. “They’re not sharing pics and you know being lewd or anything, it’s all very scientific.”
The Denver Zoo said it is still committed to bringing polar bears back after caring for the animals for more than 80 years. The goal is to return polar bears to a new, state-of-the-industry exhibit. It will require careful planning and fundraising to make sure the species can once again live in Denver.
“I feel like polar bears are silly. They’re kind of slouched over, and they’re just kind of fun to watch,” said Harter.
The zoo will move their brown bears into the exhibit that currently serves as home to Cranbeary and Lee.
“I think it’s just really fun to see an animal like that,” said Harter. “You never see an animal like that in the wild.”