It has been years since the Cincinnati Zoo has had polar bear cubs born here, 24 years to be exact. Berit, our female, and Little One, our male, have been given every opportunity to “get the job done” on their own, but their mating has not produced a cub. So, we are increasing the couple’s chances by giving Berit two small hormone injections, 90 hours apart from each other, to induce a healthy ovulation.
The first injection was scheduled to be given, appropriately, on Valentine’s Day. Because the bears were never conditioned to allow hands-on medical care, the bear line ladies (Lisa Vollmer, Debbie Loebker, Lisa Potter, Tanya Dietz) and I spent the past three and a half weeks working diligently every day, twice a day, to get Berit ready. In that time we were able to train Berit to come to us on command and present her nose and shoulders. These behaviors would allow us to administer the hormone injections without needing to use anesthesia. (See my previous post about the training.)
Yesterday was “The Day” we had all been waiting for. And it worked!!! Berit was great. She came in like we asked, leaned in, and Veterinary Technician Amy Long was able to give her the first injection. She was a bit startled and left the training session, but it didn’t take her long to come back in. When she did, we gave her all of her favorite treats to reward her. We didn’t want the last thing she remembered to be negative so it was imperative that she came back into the training den and ended on a positive note.
We’re over the first hurdle, but we still have a long way to go. We continued the training this morning and Berit came into the training den right away. She seemed a little nervous to lean in but she did and it was an absolutely wonderful session! I am so excited for Monday now and am feeling very confident that we will be able to get both injections done on time. What a good girl she is!
Now it’s up to Little One to put on the moves and have a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend planned. I talked to the keepers about playing a little Barry White or Marvin Gaye to get them in the mood! Hopefully we will continue to live up to our title of the “Sexiest Zoo in America!”