A Canadian first at Zoo sauvage de Saint-Félicien - Polar bears are born!

SAINT-FÉLICIEN, QC, Dec. 4 /CNW Telbec/ - Zoo sauvage de Saint-Félicien recorded a major first in Canada this week-one that few zoos anywhere in the world have had the chance to experience-when one of its residents, a female polar bear named Aisaqvaq, gave birth to two cubs on Monday, November 30, 2009. The first cub was born at 7:48 p.m. and the second followed at 10:22 p.m. Captivating video of the births and the mother bear caring for her offspring can be seen at http://www.zoosauvage.org. The cubs and their mother will be relocated to an arctic habitat in summer of 2010, so come admire them while there's time!

Aisaqvaq gave birth to a cub on December 3, 2008, but then ate it, to the extreme disappointment of Zoo employees. This time, however, things are going well. Aisaqvaq is exhibiting good maternal behavior and doing an outstanding job caring for her little ones, who are quick to vocalize if they're at all uncomfortable. They are quite vigorous and appear to be in very good condition. A den was designed specifically for birthing and while the first cub was born outside it, Aisaqvaq quickly brought him into its confines. The second cub was born in the den and all three have since remained within it, making it impossible to find out whether the cubs are male or female.

On November 9, Aisaqvaq began to display signs of the impending birth. Her food intake diminished steadily from that date. Because they had studied her behavior in 2008, Zoo staff were able to establish a strategy to attempt to save the new cubs. Zookeepers began round-the-clock observation on November 10, scrutinizing her every move with the aid of eight surveillance cameras. After three weeks of restless anticipation, Zoo personnel looked on in wonderment as the cubs were finally born.

An important contribution toward conserving a species

These births are extremely important, and what is even more remarkable is that a female bear in captivity is caring for her offspring herself. Having this best possible scenario become reality has left Zoo personnel overjoyed. The cubs' birth is a landmark event for the Zoo and also for the species, as polar bears have become symbolic of climate change. The genetic baggage of these cubs, born to parents from the wild, will also have significance for bears in captivity. The occasion is a success for conservation of the species and for the team at Zoo sauvage de Saint-Félicien.

The number of polar bears in captivity worldwide fell from 633 in 1980 to 364 in 2006. In addition, while there were an average 25 litters per year during this period, only nine females provided their young with adequate care. In this respect, Aisaqvaq is therefore to be commended.

SOURCE ZOO SAUVAGE OF SAINT-FELICIEN

For further information: For further information: Rosalie Bergeron, Consultant, HKDP Communications and public affairs, Mobile: (418) 570-6775, rbergeron@hkdp.qc.ca

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