Detroit Zoo Welcomes Polar Bear Cubs for the First Time in Almost 20 Years

Georgia Slater
·3 min read

Detroit Zoo/Instagram

The Detroit Zoo has some bear-y exciting news to share!

Two polar bear cubs were born at the zoo on Nov. 17, 2020, marking the first polar bears to be born and successfully raised at the facility since 2004, according to a press release.

The cubs, who are not yet named, were born to 8-year-old mother, Suka, and 16-year-old father, Nuka. Suka had previously given birth to cubs in 2018 and 2019, but none of her young survived beyond a few days.

Both cubs were born in a specially-designed, private maternity den away from the other bears, the release said. The den is equipped with infrared video cameras, so the zoo's staff could monitor the mother and the cubs without any disturbances.

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On Nov. 19, zoo staff noticed that one of the cubs, a female, was becoming "inactive" and appeared to be weak. Suka was moved out of the den so that the weak cub could be retrieved and brought to the Detroit Zoo's Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex.

Detroit Zoo/Instagram

At the health complex, the female cub was examined by veterinarians and given fluid and formula. She continues to receive frequent bottle feeding and around-the-clock care.

The cub has continued to improve — at two days old, she weighed 1.2 lbs and as of Thursday, she weighed in at 11.3 lbs.

She has graduated from an incubator to a "playpen" and will eventually go back to live in the Arctic Ring of Life habitat, one of the largest zoo polar bear habitats in the world.

The other cub is being cared for by Suka, who continuously nurses, grooms and cuddles her young.

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Both cubs are being held in behind-the-scenes areas and are not viewable by guests. Nuka and the other polar bears are viewable to guests, however, the underwater viewing in the Frederick and Barbara Erb Polar Passage is currently closed due to COVID-19.

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According to the zoo, it is rare for twin polar bears to be raised separately and officials expect to learn a lot from this unique experience.

Though they are apart, both cubs are developing well — their eyes are open, their teeth are beginning to come in and they are both learning to take their first steps.

The birth of the two cubs comes as part of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Polar Bear Species Survival Plan, a "cooperative population management and conservation program that helps ensure the sustainability of healthy captive animal populations," according to the release.