Spring (and Polar Bear Love) Blooming at the North Carolina Zoo

Polar bears Nikita and Anana at the North Carolina Zoo

At the North Carolina Zoo, Spring has sprung and love is in the air - or at least a fierce friendship. Polar bears Nikita and Anana are engaged in a season of courtship that visitors and Zoo staff alike hope will result in a baby polar bear.

"I am thrilled with the progress of the relationship developing between Nikita and Anana," said North Carolina Zoo Director Pat Simmons. "It is not often that Zoo visitors can be a part of such an exciting experience."

Nikita, a 9-year-old male born at the Toledo Zoo and then moved to the Kansas City Zoo, came to North Carolina in January where he joined 16-year-old female Anana. Anana was born at Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, New York, then moved to Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago before coming to the North Carolina Zoo in September 2014.

In the wild, males only associate with females for breeding and have been observed interacting with females from March to June. In captivity, courtship behaviors such as the male following the female, increased play behaviors, and increased acceptance of the male's presence by the female can start as early as January. Breeding usually occurs anytime between February and May, with most occurring between March and April.

Nikita and Anana remain in a pleasant courtship phase with them spending more and more time together. Both are very tolerant of each other's company and Anana, in particular, is very playful. Unfortunately, breeding has not occurred, but hopes are still high.

The average polar bear pregnancy is 224 days, but the range is 164 to 294 days. This range is so large because polar bears have delayed implantation. This means that the embryo will remain dormant in the uterus, implanting at a time that ensures that the birth will occur while conditions are favorable and the mother is denned for the winter. If the mother is overly stressed (hungry, tired or sick, for example) or environmental conditions are not right, the fertilized egg will not implant. Ninety-five percent of captive polar bear cubs are born in November and December with 73% of the births occurring between November 13 and December 15.

Less than 20 percent of AZA-accredited zoos have polar bears and only 60 polar bears are on exhibit in the United States. This means that all polar bears in zoos are genetically significant for the species.

Only at the North Carolina Zoo can you see nearly 2,000 animals in natural habitats and also watch a polar bear relationship bloom.

About the North Carolina Zoo 

The North Carolina Zoo provides an experience like no other zoo anywhere. With five miles of exhibits, nearly 2,000 animals and 52,000 plants it is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world and an international leader in wildlife conservation.

Find yourself surrounded by some of Africa's giants including elephants, rhinos, and giraffes; share the love of gorillas with Mosuba and his six-member troop; welcome polar bear Nikita as he joins Anana in polar plunges every day at their Rocky Coast Exhibit; or join in the fun at the mud café in the Kidzone.

Located in center of the state in Asheboro, it is convenient to visit from anywhere in North Carolina. The North Carolina Zoo welcomes nearly 750,000 guests each year and is open every day from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Plan your adventure at www.nczoo.org.

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