COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two female polar bears at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium have been artificially inseminated as part of the zoo's effort to protect the future of the at-risk species.
The procedures took place at the zoo in March after planning with a doctor from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. The zoo said they made the announcement in conjunction with Artic Sea Ice Day, July 15, to help raise awareness to protect the bears.
Animal health teams helped perform the procedures on the two bears, Anana and Aurora in hopes they will produce cubs.
Anana and Aurora were artificially inseminated with semen from Lee, a male polar bear at the Louisville Zoo. Lee used to live at the Columbus Zoo from November 2018 until August 2020.
While Lee was at the zoo, he fathered a male cub, Kulu, with Aurora.
The zoo says both Aurora and Anana are proven breeders and are at the prime of their reproductive years at nearly 16 years old, which made them good candidates for artificial insemination.
The procedures went as planned, but the zoo will not know if they were successful until November or December when the cubs are typically born.
The zoo said artificial insemination offers additional conservation options such as potentially reducing the need to move bears to different facilities to ensure genetic diversity for breeding, as well as helping to provide data that can benefit polar bears in their native ranges.
Artificial insemination is a newer reproductive technology in polar bears that has been attempted with the Cincinnati zoo's team a total of 14 times in North America and an estimated 20 attempts worldwide. So far, none of the attempts have been successful.
Aurora has given birth to three litters consisting of four surviving cubs while her sister, Anana, has produced one surviving cub. All five cubs are now adult bears who live at other zoos throughout the country.