POWELL, Ohio — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed back a familiar face on Thursday.
Lee, a 23-year-old polar bear, was driven to Columbus from the Louisville Zoo Thursday afternoon. Two animal care team members, a veterinarian and two facilities staff members accompanied Lee during the drive to make sure he arrived safely.
Lee returned after first arriving to the Columbus Zoo from the Denver Zoo in November 2018. While living in Columbus, the zoo says Lee sired his first cub, Kulu, who was born in November 2019, to Aurora. At the time, the Columbus Zoo was also home to Aurora's twin sister, Anana, who passed away last year.
To make sure Aurora and her cub, as well as Anana, had plenty of space for their cubs, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan recommended Lee move to the Louisville Zoo. He moved there in August 2020.
To help protect the at-risk species, the organization recommended Lee move back to Columbus and be paired with Aurora in hopes of producing cubs again in the future. Lee's reintroduction to Aurora will take place after completing a quarantine period behind the scenes.
The Columbus Zoo has had success in its polar bear breeding program, with five surviving cubs born since the zoo's Polar Frontier region opened in 2010.