Valentine’s Day was two weeks ago, but the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium hopes that love is still in the air. Two female polar bears have been flown in from Sea World San Diego to join the zoo’s Koda for mating season.
Polar bears typically mate between March and June, and Zoo officials are hopeful that 9-year old male, Koda, will breed successfully with at least one of three females.
The two visiting females, Szenja and Snowflake, might have to wait their turn for some attention from Koda as he currently only has eyes for Kobe the zoo’s only resident
female. Curator of Aquatic Life Dwayne Biggs says the bears have been nearly inseparable lately.
“They have been together probably for the last two months and are real close to each other, and Koda doesn’t even want to leave Kobe’s side,” said Biggs.
Biggs says the zoo has high hopes for Koda and Kobe who are breeding together for the third time.
Polar Bears have been declared a threatened species by the federal government and Biggs says that it is critical for the species survival that bears in captivity are able to breed.
“It’s very important for zoological institutions to breed our animals and especially for bears, you know bears are not doing very well in the arctic. I’ve been up to Alaska at least once or twice a year for the past five years and seeing the amount of ice melting is very disturbing,” said Biggs.
According to Biggs there are 21 breedable females and 13-15 males in captivity in the United States.
If breeding is successful with any of the females, handlers likely won’t know until early summer, with the first births coming in November. After birth, cubs stay with their mothers for up to two years and are normally then moved to other facilities.
“We manage all the bears in the United States as a group, so then we would determine where is the best placement for those cubs or those bears,” said Biggs.
Szenja and Snowflake will remain at the Pittsburgh Zoo for the entirety of the mating season and return to San Diego in June.