Anana the polar bear has left Lincoln Park Zoo after 14 years as a resident of the free zoo in Chicago. At 16 years old, she has been moved to the North Carolina Zoo as part of a new project the zoo will be under going this Fall through 2016. A beloved member of Lincoln Park’s animal family, she was given a farewell party before her bittersweet departure, where she was presented with an ice sculpture of a fish to enjoy.
“Anana” is Inuit for “beautiful” and the large white bear was indeed a beautiful addition to Lincoln Park Zoo, attracting many visitors and delighting them with her playful demeanor and graceful swimming. Viewers could view up close thanks to a glass fixture in her environment which allowed them to watch her dive beneath the water. Visitors might also catch a glimpse of a long black scar on her paw, which she gained from an injury as a young cub. She weighs over 700 pounds and would easily play with 50-pound balls in her habitat.
The Lincoln Park Zoo has decided to create a new habitat that will be large enough to house two polar bears and also polar bear cubs should the future residents be compatible enough to breed. In addition to the polar bear habitat, the zoo has committed to another cold-weather and warm-weather habitat as well. They are also planning to include a nearby environment for new African penguins that will be delivered to the zoo. Both penguins and polar bears will arrive in 2016.
The new habitats together will cost 22 million dollars to build. Construction will start in Fall 2014. When completed, the habitats will be approximately 45,000 square feet of both water and land environments for the animals to enjoy. They will be next to the Regenstein African Journey.
On the LPZ website’s “Posts From the President” feature, Zoo President Kevin Bell said to concerned Anana fans that it was not a move that was made hastily. He emphasized that Anana leaving was a required part of creating the new Habitat for Polar Bears which is designed to incorporate findings from the most recent research about the requirements of the threatened animals. He pointed out that it was a time of crisis for polar bears in general because of the reduction of arctic ice due to changes in climate taking away the very habitat required for them to survive. In light of that crisis, he said that zoos in North America were joining together under the auspices of the Polar Bear Species Survival Plan to coordinate efforts at conservation.
The penguins will also be encouraged to breed in order to boost their numbers. Plans call for at least a dozen of them to have a pool in front of the cliffs in the habitat for recreation. There will also be boxes for nests where the penguins will be able to build future generations. LPZ.org reported optimistically. Unlike their Antarctic cousins, African penguins will be able to live more freely in the Chicago zoo in both the summer as well as the winter.
It is not known at this time whether Anana will be one of the polar bears to live in the new habitat in 2016. While Lincoln Park Zoo hopes for her return, it cannot yet speculate on the likelihood of her coming back.
By Jillian Moyet