Week Five: The Short One

Well, I only worked one day this week, so this post will be relatively shorter than the rest. The best and most interesting thing to talk about would be, I think, our polar bear Coldilocks. People come from all over just to see her. Every day, I get asked, “Where’s the polar bear?” People yell at her to try and get her to swim, which she rarely does. The thing is, she’s an old woman. The oldest polar bear in North America, in fact, at 36 years old (the life span of a captive polar bear is 25-30 years). The biggest question that her age raises is, from the Zoo administration and guests alike, what will we do when she dies? The true answer is that we really don’t know. Polar bears are few and hard to come by, especially in the US, where the breeding program for the species has been largely unsuccessful. That in itself is a problem, but the larger issue rests in the fact that our polar bear facility simply isn’t up to date anymore. Regulations have changed, and the cost of updating our current habitat would be in the millions. Even if we updated the facility, we would then be placed on a wait-list to receive a polar bear, which could take years. On the flip side, polar bears are a huge gate species. Everyone loves polar bears; they draw in visitors. Having one would allow us to assist in conservation efforts, and participate in a major species survival plan as numbers in the wild dwindle. It’s actually getting to the point where we can house one that’s the problem. It’s a choice our curators will have to make once Coldilocks passes, and a tough choice it will be. We’ll see how it turns out in years to come.

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