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Polar Bear Watch

Polar bears enjoying the Cincinnati winter

The season from November through February typically is an ideal time for polar bears at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.  The weather is cold and snow sometimes falls.  Bundled up zoo visitors eagerly approach the polar bear exhibit expecting to see bears actively playing in the icey cold water where they appear to be enjoying themselves immensely.  However, in November and December visitors may not see as many polar bears as they have come to expect.  During the fall and early winter seasons, the female bears are given access to dens during the day in case they are pregnant and want to begin exhibiting nesting behavior.  Therefore, if you don’t see a bear in the under water viewing area, don’t be disappointed.  It could be that the bear is in her den preparing to give birth.  CREW scientists analyze the hormones in fecal samples of polar bears and try to determine which bears at our nation’s zoos are possibly pregnant.  Although the tests are still not definitive because hormone values in pseudopregnant (false pregnant) and pregnant bears appear similar,the data can be used to determine which bears might be carrying cubs.  Fortunately, one of our bears falls into this category.  Due to climate change and the loss of arctic sea ice, polar bears are now threatened with extinction, so we need all the polar bear cubs we can produce.  Keep your fingers crossed that our bear is truly pregnant this year and not just pseudopregnant!

Bears enjoying a Valentine's Day treat

November 15, 2010   5 Comments

Preparing for Nikki’s baby

Beginning October 1, a team of Zoo Volunteer Observers (ZVO’s) will monitor Nikki on video screens in our CREW facility, as we get closer to her due date. The ZVO’s  will be on duty from the time keepers leave at night until they come back to work in the morning.  The video feed from the camera goes directly into a digital video recorder so the keepers and the CREW scientists can review the footage.

All eyes will be on  Nikki!

In addition, like all expectant parents, we have had to baby proof the rhino barn in preparation for Nikki’s calf.  Indian rhino calves weigh somewhere between 88 to 140 pounds at birth and can stand within 30 minutes of being born.  While generally wobbly at first, Nikki’s calf will soon be steady, on its feet, and busy exploring.  We can’t wait!

Just as human babies sleep in a crib to stay safe, we had to modify Nikki’s bedroom so it would be safe for her calf.  Our maintenance department made play-pen type bars to fit in between the already existing bars of Nikki’s stalls.  This way, the little calf can’t wander out and will stay safe and secure with mommy.

baby proof

Wendy Shaffstall, one of Nikki's keepers, checks the baby proofing.

A big shout out to our maintenance department for helping us get ready for Nikki’s baby!

Now, should we paint the rhino barn pink or blue?

September 29, 2010   No Comments

Lounging Poolside During the Homestretch of Pregnancy

Like most pregnant women in late summer,  Nikki can be found lounging in her private pool daily as her pregnancy comes to an end.  At 4,100 pounds, you can easily imagine the weight water’s buoyancy takes off Nikki’s aching bones.

relaxing in water

relaxing in water

Indian rhinos are the most aquatic of the five rhino species, so Nikki would normally enjoy dips in her 40-inch-deep pool.  The water is more appealing than usual when she’s carrying a 100+ pound rhino calf!  And, with temperatures outside reaching record highs in Cincinnati, and the pool set to a cool 55-60 degrees, Nikki finds herself spending more and more time in the soft waters of her hideaway.

Beginning October 1, Nikki will no longer have access to her pool, due to her approaching due date,  but for now you can stop by the Zoo and see Nikki daily, lounging by the pool and counting down the days to her due date.

What was your favorite way to stay comfortable during pregnancy?

September 9, 2010   2 Comments