‘No aggression’ seen in Detroit Zoo polar bears before fatal breeding attempt, officials say


Detroit Zoo officials said Tuesday they had followed proper guidelines in a breeding attempt between two polar bears that became fatal this week.

“Normal protocols were followed, including ensuring compatibility between two individual animals,” Christina Ross, a spokeswoman for the Detroit Zoological Society, told The Detroit News. “For almost a year these animals lived together 24 hours a day and we saw no aggression.”

On Monday, 20-year-old Anana died when 16-year-old Nuka, the zoo’s adult male bear, tried to breed with her.

It was the first time since 1988 that an animal has killed another animal on the premises. The last event also affected polar bears, according to the Zoological Society.

According to Scott Carter, Chief Life Sciences Officer of the Detroit Zoological Society, Anana and Nuka had lived together without incident in 2020.

It went several months apart and then was reintroduced last week as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for Polar Bear Species, which is committed to maintaining healthy animal populations in captivity.

Through the efforts, Nuka fathered twin babies who were recently born at the zoo.

Anana owned the Buffalo Zoo and the Denver Zoo owns Nuka, Ross said Tuesday.

“It is common for animals in AZA zoos to be borrowed from other AZA institutions,” she told The News. Polar bears have no commercial value and are not bought or sold.

A polar bear (Nuka) plays with an evergreen tree in its exhibit during Green Day at the Detroit Zoo.

The zoo notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums of the death, Ross said.

On Monday, staff reacted “immediately to isolate the bears when they saw pineapple injuries,” Ross said. “Nuka was lured into the polar bear’s indoor enclosure with food, even though Anana had already died.”

When asked about the zoo’s liability for the animal’s death, Ross replied, “We are responsible for all the animals that live here. We cannot control an animal’s emotional state, and there was nothing in advance to indicate aggression . Obviously polar bears in the wild are large predators and can be aggressive towards other bears. “

According to the World Wildlife Fund website, polar bears are “the largest bear in the world and the largest predator in the Arctic”. Males weigh up to 800-1,300 pounds and have razor sharp teeth.

In a statement Tuesday, AZA president and CEO Dan Ashe noted that the Detroit Zoo’s death is a reminder of the risks involved in caring for the animals.

“Pineapple’s death is tragic and we express our condolences to the entire Detroit Zoo community,” said Ashe.


Dusty Kennedy