SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – On New Year’s Eve, Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City welcomed the arrival of Neva, a five-year-old female polar bear, to Rocky Shores, an extensive multi-animal habitat featuring bears, sea lions, seals and otters.
Neva comes from Maryland Zoo as a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for polar bears.
According to Kaleigh Jablonski, Rocky Shores Animal Care Supervisor, “Neva is doing well and adjusting slowly to her new home. Keepers are working with her through positive reinforcement training to teach her the ins and outs of her new habitat. She’s a very curious bear and we are enjoying getting to know her.”
According to the general curator of the Maryland Zoo, Mike McClure, employees “knew that at some point as they matured, they [polar bears] would eventually move to other zoos to continue their growth as adult bears. This will offer opportunities to further enhance their growth and development into fully mature adult bears in new ways.” Neva was recommended to come to Hogle Zoo by the SSP for polar bears as a potential mate for Nikita, a polar bear currently living at Rocky Shores.
Since Neva grew up with a brother and has experience being around a male, employees at Hogle Zoo believe she has the potential to interact well with Nikita. Nikita is 15 years of age, weighing around 1,200 pounds, and stands on his hind legs at 10.5 feet tall. According to employees at the zoo, he can often times be seen playing with his toys and loves to learn new things.
Neva and Nikita will spend the next several months getting to know each other, and it will take time for Neva to adjust to her new surroundings. In fact, it may be quite possible they may never live together.
While some polar bears may adjust to one another and live in the same habitat, they are naturally solitary animals.
Guests may be able to see Neva or Nikita on exhibit when visiting the zoo, however, Hogle Zoo cannot guarantee which polar bear will be out and about and easily observable.
According to the zoo, the polar bears often have access to off-exhibit spaces to give them choice in their environment. For Neva, in particular, this allows her to become comfortable in the exhibit on her own time.
Polar bears are experiencing a decline in population due to climate change. As a result of the disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic due to rising temperatures, scientists believe that by 2100, polar bear populations could be drastically reduced, if not eliminated entirely.
Through its partnership with Polar Bears International (PBI), the Hogle Zoo supports efforts to ensure the survival and preservation of this critically endangered species.
For more information about Utah’s Hogle Zoo, click here.
For more information about PBI, click here.