Polar Bear Hopes

High hopes for Chinook!

Chinook gave birth to two beautiful, fuzzy white cubs. Beep, beep, beep. . .I turned the alarm clock off. Yes, it was a dream, right? Or maybe a premonition? It seemed so real! As soon as I arrived at the polar bear building at the San Diego Zoo, Chinook came out of her bed to say good morning, so I asked her, “Are you really going to have two?” She simply winked at me; if she does know, she’s keeping us all in suspense. Every week during her ultrasound exams we are so hopeful of finding just a little hint of what may be to come. We realize what an incredible task this is to find something so small in such a large belly!

Chinook’s behavior is still very consistent with a pregnant polar bear. A few weeks ago we stopped letting her out on exhibit with Kalluk and Tatqiq, since she seemed to be less tolerant of their presence. This week we stopped having Chinook on exhibit at all or letting Kalluk and Tatqiq into Chinook’s side of the bedroom area and yard. We will continue this for the next few months until we know for sure if our Chinook will be joined by one or two little ones. We are now in the expected due date range if Chinook is pregnant: October 9 to December 15. Believe me, we are all so hopeful and excited!

Our other two polar bears, Kalluk and Tatqiq, are having a great time being full-time ambassadors. With autumn arriving, it seems they spend more time in the pool. Every day the brother-and-sister pair are enjoying roughhousing together. They are great playmates and always play to each other’s level, never getting too rough. It is so nice to see that their bond has stayed so strong.

This week they welcomed keeper Hali O’Connor back from her great adventure up north at Keeper Leadership Camp, sponsored by Polar Bears International, in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. (see Hali’s most recent post, More Arctic Ambassador Adventures) and met this year’s student ambassador, Rachel. She will be up in Churchill this week learning all about polar bears and what we need to do to help slow the process of our warming planet, and, in turn, prevent the complete loss of polar bear habitat. (See Rachel’s post, Countdown to the Arctic.)

Being an Arctic ambassador sometimes seems a daunting task: how to inspire behavior change when it often feels so doom and gloom? It is a global issue and must start with individuals. We’ve faced other environmental problems and won. Remember the hole in the ozone? As individuals, we worked to find the cause, develop solutions, and act as a global community. The unprecedented international action to the hole in the ozone, which was first seen 25 years ago, has paid off. Scientists are now predicting a rebound and that by 2080 the global ozone will return to 1950s’ levels. We now all need to return to action to have the same impact to slow, stop, and reverse the rate of our planet’s warming. After all, we want Chinook’s cubs to know we are doing everything we can to save the Arctic for their wild cousins so they, too, will be Arctic Ambassadors.

JoAnne Simerson is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, A Quiet Fall?

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