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Are Polar Bears a Phase-Out Species in the USA?

Discussion in 'United States' started by Beastking04, 10 Apr 2017.

  1. Beastking04

    Beastking04 Well-Known Member

    11 Aug 2014
    United States
    With Rizzo's passing at Utah's Hogle Zoo, it led me thinking. We're not seeing many Polar Bears born is US zoos. And aren't many Polar Bears currently in US zoos elderly. I think we might have a problem with Polar Bears, that's similar with this country's problem with Asian Elephants.

    So I'm asking more experienced members of this sight the question: Are Polar Bears a Phase-Out species in the US?
  2. jibster

    jibster Well-Known Member

    28 Apr 2015
    Columbus, Ohio, USA
    Polar bears are not a phase-out species. The problems with the species in U.S. collections are largely due to federal laws with regards to marine mammals, which make it extremely difficult to add new individuals to the captive population (even nuisance bears from Canada cannot join the U.S. captive population). However, contrary to treating polar bears as a phase-out species, the AZA and its member zoos have been working to increase breeding and maximize the genetic diversity in the remaining captive population. It's just taking time, and there has not been great success in general over the past decade or so. Toledo Zoo and Columbus Zoo have been the most successful in recent years, but numerous threads in the U.S forums cover possible pregnancies every year. The proliferation of new polar bear exhibits and the perennial popularity of the species pretty much guarantees that the species will not be phased out any time in the foreseeable future.
    TheMightyOrca and Arizona Docent like this.
  3. TZFan

    TZFan Well-Known Member

    3 Jul 2012
    Ontario, Canada
    Jibster is right. Polar bears are not a phase out species but the difficulties in increase the population are very real. Even Alaskan orphans are not necessarily allowed to breed unless fish and wildlife consents. Only a few have that special permission but so far no success with them. The age of the population and the number of males who were sterilized in the 90's is really hurting breeding efforts.

    It would be nice if Canadian bears could come south. Canada is home to 20 bears at the moment with all of them maturing within the next 5 years. Currently there are 3 breeding pairs but none of them have been successful yet. Toronto has a successful breeding pair who have been split up due to over representation. Winnipeg's bears will start coming online as potential breeders in the next two years with all being breedable in 5 years. Their advantage will be they can mix and match their pairs with 5 males and 5 females. Soon enough Canadian zoos will need somewhere else to send their cubs and unless the US changes its regulations the AZA will lose out to Europe and Japan.
    Arizona Docent likes this.
  4. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member

    10 Feb 2009
    Arizona, USA
    The fact that problem bears cannot be placed in zoos but must sometimes be killed instead is ridiculous. Hopefully Alaska Zoo will get the money to expand their polar bear exhibit (which they are already planning for) and start breeding.
    TheMightyOrca likes this.
  5. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member

    28 Jan 2014
    Corpus Christi, Texas
    In addition to what other users have said, polar bears aren't easy to keep in captivity, so there are fewer zoos that can keep them compared to other species. But I'm sure the species is a crowd-pleaser (I've never seen a captive polar bear myself, but I'm willing to bet they're very popular) and there could be some conservation benefit to maintaining a captive population, so I don't think zoos will give up easily.