UNTAMED SCIENCE: North Carolina Zoo and Polar Bears
For these iconic Arctic animals, breeding isn't as easy as it looks! With populations dwindling in the wild, AZA-accredited zoos play an important role in raising awareness about the threat of climate change and habitat loss and ensuring the species survives - and thrives. Our polar bears Nikita and Anana have the best of both worlds - their Tundra and Arctic Waters habitats mimic the wild environment. Their outdoor pools, indoor quarters and flooring are a chilly 55 degrees year-round. However, they've also been spotted sunbathing on warmer days.
thistles. The polar bear habitat. Kids are not on the menu. Thank you. Very keepers. All the people in charge of making sure the polar bears stay happy right over there. Today we're following the keepers to learn about how they encourage breeding in the largest land carnivore. We've got kids with us today, and we had to bring the kids to show him this giant bear. You don't realize how big they are until you're standing right next to him and you're like, Oh my gosh, you're huge. When he finds a female that is not being protected by another male, he'll do what's called a guarding behaviour. And he'll stay with her, pretty much protect her from any other boys coming around to make sure that when she does cycle that he's the one that's with her. Wait. So the goal today Really simple. Learn as much as we could about reproduction in polar bears. And this could be really important, given what's happening in the Arctic, and the kids didn't need help to get excited about the polar bears. Clearly, they already were so off they went to the Rocky Coast habitat. Look at that. This highlights one of the greatest things about the polar bear. It's an ambassador for all the animals in the Arctic. Really. I can't move over there. Way came so early. The polar bears were both sleeping. But that won't last too long, given the keepers brought food. I guarantee if we go up top, it smells the food he's gonna wake up and the press this'll One is his absolute favorite. This is a herring. It's sort of like the pizza fish. It's his favorite, like a red Harry. I probably like a red herring red hair. Just a bad guess. Read it. Okay, let's not get distracted. We need to wait this boulder bear up. We're going to go up and feed the poor over all this. When you're talking about breeding polar bears, well, you need to make sure their diet is really good and their wealth Very. Yep. Good job, buddy. But boy, here zoo, they have two bears, a male and a female. This is the large male. This is Nikita. Anti loves red herring. But that's not all he gets to eat. What is it that you're feeding? This is some zoo based ground beef. It's got vitamins and minerals in it, guys. Corner wars, the cute years and the nose and I just humongous pause. Anything about them is amazing to me. Would a male typically twice the size of the female or male right now is a little over £1200? Difference was quite evident. Here's the mail and then here is female and she comes in at about £700. If they're gonna have babies, they wanna have a good fat reserves so that they could live off of that while they're dating and waiting for their cut their cups to help with the process of mating The'keeper's air trying as much as possible to simulate how things might be in the wild. Polar bears in the wild are solitary, and they only come together for breeding. So we do the same thing here. We put them together earliest winter and about the time they would come together in the wild a certain time of the year and they'll will start sort of tracking females. They have a really good sense of smell. They can actually find a female and track her for miles. Just by this like this, the smell that she's leaving from the bottom of your feet on the ground. Beyond just their behaviors, The'keeper's have a clever way of looking at the hormones that the bears air admitting. Not only are we in the polar bear habitat for Ashley here to look for polar bear poop, the reason for that is that it's time to make thes polar bears, and they used to poop to detect whether, if the female is ready to make, it's really exciting. Actually, you learning a lot about this stuff here, and then every couple of months we send it out to our reproductive team, and they will look at all the hormones in that feces and decide whether or not things are looking good for a pregnancy. I also learned that pregnant females undergo delayed implantation. What that means is that a male sperm will fertilize the egg from the female, But shortly after pause development, it could be several months when conditions are right. Then the embryo will implant on the wall of the uterus, and then normal development will continue. From that point, it only takes about three months before a baby polar bears born, but it's because of this delayed implantation and the fact that you can't really tell outwardly if a polar bears pregnant, that the'keeper's need to sample the poop and check the hormones. So now I understand a bit more about what the zoo is doing to help these polar bears breed. For perspective. This is only one of 10 breeding pairs in the United States. And while we do understand a lot of the science behind mating and breeding, there's still a lot to learn. And given polar bear habitat is rapidly decreasing. What the zoo is doing is important for the future. Now, if you visit the zoo in the next several months, here's what you'll be looking for any time between February and April. Anonymous cycle. That means she'll be receptive to mating. At that time, Nikita will probably start guarding her. That usually means will do things like sleeping with his head on top of ER and not letting her out of its site if they made at any time, the keepers will know because of the cameras all around the habitat, and as soon as they've made it, their behavior will instantly change, and they won't want anything to do with each other. That means the keepers will separate them again. And if we're lucky and no one will get pregnant, then up and have cubs about four months later, and if that happens, it's guaranteed will make another video about it. We just wanted to walk you through this breeding behavior so that the next time you peer through the glass that these magnificent bears you'll be one step closer to understanding why they're behaving the way they do. Thanks everybody, for watching this short. More information on what the zoo is doing down in the description below and stay tuned for more episodes.