POWELL, OH (WCMH) — Nora the polar bear has two new half-siblings! The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said the cubs were born Tuesday, Nov. 8 to first-time mother, Anana.
“Our keeper that was watching the cameras at that time kind of jumped up and exclaimed that we had a baby and then we were all glued to the monitor and waiting to hear that cry,” said assistant curator Nikki Smith. “We’re just over the moon.”
The Zoo says the cubs “appear to be strong,” and the mother bear is caring for them.
“We’re seeing all positive signs that they’re nursing. She’s providing great care,” said Smith.
Smith said the cubs are Nora’s half siblings and also her cousins. The three polar bears share the same father, Nanuq. The newborns’ mother is the sister to Nora’s mother, Aurora.
The Zoo staff have been prepping for months, hoping for a polar bear pregnancy.
“Polar bears don’t reproduce well in their natural range or in human care, so for us to have twins with Anana who’s never been a mom before this is just already contributing to our knowledge of polar bears,” said Smith.
Smith said there’s no pregnancy test for polar bears, but they have been watching the female bears closely for signs of pregnancy.
“The gestation is only 60 days. It’s fairly short and cubs are only about 1 pound at birth,” said Smith. “They spend several months in the den with their mothers and their mother’s milk is very rich in fat and that allows them to grow very quickly because when they exit the den with mom in March or April they need to be able to keep up with her, so they need to be able to grow really fast.”
Polar bears have one of the lowest reproductive rates of any mammal, the Zoo says–the survival rate for a polar bear cub during the first few weeks of life is only 50 percent.
“Polar bear habitats are shrinking. They’re under constant environmental pressures,” said Smith. “Anything that we can learn, that we can contribute to research with polar bears can help save them.”
Smith said they’re keeping a close watch on the maternity den through monitors, being careful to keep the building quiet and not to disturb the new family.
“As long as Anana is providing great care for the cubs, we would not intervene,” she said.
But, it’ll still be a few months before the public will get to see them.
“You’ll get to see them when they’re ready to come out of the den, which we’ll leave up to the bears,” said Smith.
Nora recently moved to the Oregon Zoo in September.