UK’s butterflies: Concern for many butterfly species despite ‘good year’ for populations

The Large Blue was pronounced extinct in Britain in 1979 and subsequently reintroduced into this country by Natural England and UKCEH

The UK’s butterflies had a ‘good’ year in 2020 but populations of many species remain in long-term decline, according to the latest annual results.

Trends based on records collected by volunteers have been published by the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS), which is led by Butterfly Conservation, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

Analysis of the abundance data shows that 2020 was the third good year in a row for the UK’s butterflies overall, ranking it 10th best, averaged across all species, since UKBMS began in 1976. However, the fortunes for individual species was mixed. Of the 58 species reported on by the scheme, 31 fared better than their long-term average and 27 species worse.

Dr Marc Botham, Butterfly Ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, says: “Despite 2020 being a challenging year for data gathering and conservation activity, we received nearly half a million records from more than 2,500 sites over the year.

“We are incredibly grateful to the thousands of volunteers who were able to carry out COVID-safe monitoring and maintain this invaluable long-term dataset. This enables scientists to better assess how butterflies are faring as well as the health of our countryside generally.”

As numbers decline in the long term, perceptions of what makes a ‘good year’ for butterflies have changed, according to scientists.

Dr Richard Fox, Associate Director of Recording and Monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, says: “Perhaps because of the warm sunny spring weather last year and the fact that more people were enjoying nature as part of their day-to-day activities than ever before, butterflies seemed more numerous.

“We need to be wary of shifting baseline syndrome, whereby we forget (or never experienced) the greater biodiversity that occurred in the UK in former decades and therefore lower our expectations and aspirations for conservation. Here, the UKBMS has a vital role to play in showing how insect populations have declined over time.

“It is worrying that, even after three good years, population levels of so many butterfly species continue to be down compared to 40 years ago.”

Butterfly populations fluctuate naturally from year to year, but the long-term trends of UK butterflies are mainly driven by human activity, particularly the destruction of habitats and climate change.

However, conservation can make a difference to local populations and 2020 was a good year for a number of scarce species including the Large Blue, which had its joint second best year since UKBMS started. The species was pronounced extinct in Britain in 1979 and subsequently reintroduced into this country by Natural England and UKCEH.

Among the UK’s widespread butterfly species, Brimstone, Orange-tip and Marbled White all had a good year, although their numbers were not at the exceptional levels seen in 2019. After a run of four very poor years, numbers of Small Tortoiseshell improved, showing an increase of 103 per cent over 2019 but remaining below long-term average levels and the species still shows a serious (79 per cent) decrease in abundance since 1976.

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary has now had nine consecutive years with below average numbers, and its populations have declined by 68 per cent since 1976. Painted Lady, a migrant species, also had a poor year and populations of Wall, Grayling and Small Skipper all remained at a low ebb.

All the data from for 2020 can be accessed at UKBMS.org/official-statistics

Counting elephants from space

Elephants in woodland as seen from space. Green rectangles show elephants detected by the algorithm, red rectangles show elephants verified by humans. Credit: Maxar Technologies

Satellite images processed with the help of computer algorithms devised at the University of Bath are a promising new tool for surveying endangered wildlife.

For the first time, scientists have successfully used satellite cameras coupled with deep learning to count animals in complex geographical landscapes, taking conservationists an important step forward in monitoring populations of endangered species.

For this research, the satellites Worldview 3 and 4 used high-resolution imagery to capture African elephants moving through forests and grasslands. The automated system detected animals with the same accuracy as humans are able to achieve.

Location of the study area in ‐Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa. Two example WorldView‐3 images showing 1) Elephants in open homogeneous area around Hapoor Dam, 2) Elephants in heterogenous woodland and thicket area. Satellite image (c) 2020 Maxar Technologies

The algorithm that enabled the detection process was created by Dr Olga Isupova, a computer scientist at the University of Bath. The project was a collaboration with the University of Oxford and the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

Dr Isupova said the new surveying technique allows vast areas of land to be scanned in a matter of minutes, offering a much-needed alternative to human observers counting individual animals from low-flying airplanes. As it sweeps across the land, a satellite can collect over 5,000 km² of imagery in a matter of minutes, eliminating the risk of double counting. Where necessary (for instance, when there is cloud coverage), the process can be repeated the next day, on the satellite’s next visit.

The population of African elephants has nose-dived over the past century, mainly due to poaching and habitat fragmentation. With approximately 415,000 African savannah elephants left in the wild, the species is classified as endangered.

“Accurate monitoring is essential if we’re to save the species,” said Dr Isupova. “We need to know where the animals are and how many there are.”

Satellite monitoring eliminates the risk of disturbing animals during data collection and ensures humans are not hurt in the counting process. It also makes it simpler to count animals moving from country to country, as satellites can orbit the planet without regard for border controls or conflict.

This study was not the first to use satellite imagery and algorithms to monitor species, but it was the first to reliably monitor animals moving through a heterogeneous landscape – that is, a backdrop that includes areas of open grassland, woodland and partial coverage.

“This type of work has been done before with whales, but of course the ocean is all blue, so counting is a lot less challenging,” said Dr Isupova. “As you can imagine, a heterogeneous landscape makes it much hard to identify animals.”

The researchers believe their work demonstrates the potential of technology to support conservationists in their plight to protect biodiversity and to slow the progress of the sixth mass extinction – the ongoing extinction event triggered by human activity.

“We need to find new state-of-the-art systems to help researchers gather the data they need to save species under threat,” said Dr Isupova.

African elephants were chosen for this study for good reason – they are the largest land animal and therefore the easiest to spot. However, Dr Isupova is hopeful that it will soon be possible to detect far smaller species from space.

“Satellite imagery resolution increases every couple of years, and with every increase we will be able to see smaller things in greater detail,” she said, adding: “Other researchers have managed to detect black albatross nests against snow. No doubt the contrast of black and white made it easier, but that doesn’t change the fact that an albatross nest is one-eleventh the size of an elephant.”

The researchers involved in this project were Dr Olga Isupova from the University of Bath, Isla Duporge, Dr Steven Reece, and Professor David W. Macdonald from the University of Oxford, and Dr Tiejun Wang from the University of Twente. The study was designed by Isla Duporge as part of her PhD, which is supervised by the Geospatial department at the University of Twente.

New zebra foal brings joy to Monarto Safari Park

Monarto Safari Park has some great news – a tiny and beautifully patterned zebra foal has joined their wild family!

The little stripy zebra foal, the 14th addition to the herd, was born on Sunday morning in an ‘off limits’ area and has been busy settling in under the careful watch of mum Gina.

Keepers are making sure to give the youngster and mum, aged 13, some space so at this time they’re unsure as to whether it’s a boy or a girl.

Assistant Curator Anna Bennett says: “Mum and baby are doing really well. The little one is sticking pretty close to mum so far.

“There is plenty of space for them so they are keeping to themselves and having plenty of bonding time.

“The foal is looking really strong and healthy and feeding well so that’s excellent news.

“Gina is an experienced mum so she’s watching the foal brilliantly and making sure it feels comfortable within the herd and around keepers,” finished Anna.

The Plains Zebra is classified as near-threatened by the IUCN. Contrary to popular belief, the zebra population in the wild has declined in 10 out of the 17 range states since IUCN Red List assessments. Threats to the Plains Zebra include livestock farming, ranching, hunting, trapping, drought and war and civil unrest.

As a leading conservation charity, Monarto Safari Park is working to save species like the Plains Zebra from extinction. Zoos SA’ s mission is to save animals from extinction and to connect people with nature.

During the current period of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoos SA is connecting with animal lovers through a range of interactive online services including live stream camerasFacebook Lives and Keeper Cam. Visit www.zoossa.com.au/zoo-to-you/ for full details.

UN issues stamps celebrating CITES-listed migratory species

The new stamps highlight 12 migratory bird, mammal and marine species.

Geneva/New York, 17 February 2020 –The 27th edition of UN Endangered Species Stamps series was launched today. For this series the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) and CITES Secretariat engaged with the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) to feature 12 stamps showcasing CITES-listed migratory species, that are listed in the Appendices of both the Conventions.

CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, said: “We are most grateful to the UN Postal Administration for our long-standing cooperation to raise awareness of CITES-listed species through these stamps. We are happy to hear that they are among the most popular series issued by the UNPA. Not unlike the letters on which these stamps might go, migratory species travel around the world to find their destinations and seasonal habitats. This year we are honoured to invite our sister convention CMS to feature CITES-listed migratory species that are also covered by CMS.”

Thanawat Amnajanan, Chief of the United Nations Postal Administration said: “The United Nations Postal Administration is very honoured to be working with CITES and CMS this year to issue stamps featuring endangered migratory species, and to support CMS COP13 in Gandhinagar, India. This is the first time that UNPA has worked with both CMS and CITES – the two UN-backed treaties dedicated to the conservation and regulation of trade of the remaining wildlife on our planet.”

Created by Portuguese designer Sandra Macieira, the 2020 batch showcases a wide range of species found around the world, depicting migratory birds, fish and mammal species including migratory marine species. These include the Great Hammerhead Shark, the Andean Flamingo, the Dalmatian Pelican, Egyptian Vulture,  the Saker Falcon, the Siberian Crane, the Addax, the Argali Sheep, the Kiang, the Lion, the Harbour Porpoise and Narwhal.

The issuance of this year’s series will also give a nod to the13th meeting of Conference of the Parties to CMS, which is due to take place on February 17-22 in Gandhinagar, India, where the stamps are due to be unveiled by the CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero and the CMS Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel.

“Both CITES and CMS work to ensure that these travelers can continue to roam the earth and still find a home to settle in. CITES strives to keep the trade of such species legal, sustainable and traceable. As we mark the ‘biodiversity super year’ throughout 2020, we will also advocate for the conservation of these species and their habitats for people, planet and prosperityin support of the UN SDGs. We will continue to work closely with UNPA to explore creative ways in which the endangered species stamps reveal the various wonders of species biodiversity on our planet”, added Higuero.

WILD ANIMALS ARE BANNED IN CIRCUSES IN ENGLAND!

As of today, (20th January 2020), circuses performing in England will no longer be allowed to use wild animals as part of their act. The Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019 expressly forbids circus operators from using wild animals in a travelling circus in England.

Similar bans in the UK and Ireland have already come into effect. The Republic of Ireland banned wild animal circuses last year, with Scotland too banning shortly after. Wales is also in the process of legislating, with a ban expected by the end of 2020.

There are two remaining circuses in the UK with wild animal licences; Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus who have a total of nineteen wild animals between them. The landmark legislation means that these six reindeer, four zebra, three camels, three racoons, a fox, a macaw and a zebu will no longer be permitted to used as part of these circuses’ shows. Just as importantly, however, is the fact that no future wild animal circuses will be allowed to start up.

Freedom for Animals’ Director, Sam Threadgill said;

This is a huge milestone towards a world where animals will be free to live their lives outside of captivity. Animal circuses are barbarous relics of a by-gone era and have no place in the 21st Century. Over decades, Freedom for Animals has tirelessly campaigned against the cruel animal circus industry and I am very pleased that this progressive legislation has finally come into effect. The dedication and hard work of many compassionate people has brought us to where we are today, and that is something also to be celebrated.

He continued;

Whilst this is undoubtedly a very welcome step forward, we are concerned about the future for those wild animals who are held within Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus, not to mention the domestic animals who are still forced to perform tricks as part of cruel circus acts.

Irene Heaton founded Freedom for Animals (previously named the Captive Animals’ Protection Society) in 1957 during the perceived heyday of animal circuses in Britain. At the time, one circus alone (Billy Smart’s) toured with 200 animals including elephants, lions, horses, polar bears, camels, sea lions and chimpanzees.

In 1997, following a ten year long campaign by FFA, Blackpool Pleasure Beach finally announced that there would be no further animal circuses on its land. This followed a successful campaign by Freedom for Animals against the prestigious Blackpool Tower Circus, where animals including elephants and horses were confined to the tower’s cellars for six months of the year.

An undercover investigation by the charity in 2009 unveiled horrifying practices at the Great British Circus. Elephants were found to be chained for up to 11 hours a day and a spiked metal goad was used by a trainer on an elephant during the show. These are just a few examples of the suffering that wild animals confined in circuses have had to endure.

Marc Bekoff, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado (Boulder USA) said;

This is very welcome news. There is no way that circuses can provide an adequate environment for wild animals. The long journey times to and from shows, the tiny enclosures provided, the lack of enrichment all lead to circus animals pacing, swaying and mouthing cage bars; clear signs of stress caused by captivity. This is not to mention the severe abuses involved in training elephants to perform handstands or tigers to jump through hoops, where fear and submission are needed to coerce these animals to display such unnatural behaviours. Put shortly, wild animals belong in the wild.

Fiona Oakes, elite marathon runner and founder of Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary said;

The Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019 is a monumental day for all animals and with it brings further acknowledgement, and universal acceptance, that the exploitation of animals is wrong and needs to cease.  It is a testament to the dedication, determination and devotion Freedom for Animals has exhibited over many years and a reward for their tireless efforts and endeavours to create a better world for our animal friends. I hope that with this historic victory comes more recognition and funding for this amazing charity in order that they can continue and grow the important and inspiring work they have being doing on behalf of the animals since their inception in 1957. What amazing news to celebrate the dawn of a new decade!

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

Freedom for Animals has been campaigning against the use of wild animals in circuses for over 60 years. I’m pleased that legislation is coming into effect that finally puts an end to this cruel and outdated practice in England. The abuse of animals for entertainment has no place in a civilised, humane society. It is time that animal circuses are consigned to the history books forever.

The oldest free-ranging black rhino (Fausta) dies at the age of 57 in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Photo Credits: Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority

The oldest free-ranging black rhino (Fausta) dies at the age of 57 in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania: It was kept in captivity for the last three years of its survival

Fausta, a cow (female) eastern black rhino (Diceros birconis michaelli), died of suspected natural death at 2029 hours in captive environment in the Ngorongoro crater, Tanzania on 27th December 2019 at the age of 57. Records show that Fausta lived longest than any rhino in the world and survived in the Ngorongoro, free-ranging, for more than 54 years before it was kept in a sanctuary for the last three years of its life in 2016. Fausta was first located in the Ngorongoro crater in 1965 by a scientist from the University of Dar Es Salaam, at the age between 3 and 4 years. Her health begun to deteriorate in 2016, when we were forced to put the animal in captivity, after several attacks from Hyena and severe wounds thereafter. Fausta also lost sight or vision, which further compromise its survival ability in the wild. Rhino Fausta survived 57 years without bearing calves.

Records also show that, Sana, a female southern white rhino, aged 55, was considered the world’s oldest white rhino in captivity died, the western at the La Planete Sauvage Zoological park in France, in 2017. Records also show that on 11th May 2017, Elly, the then the oldest living black rhino in the United States, died at her home in the San Francisco Zoo at the age of 46. The life expectancy of rhinos is between 37 and 43 years in the wild and they can live up to 50 years and above in captivity.

100 days of our panda twins: Official naming ceremony for Zoo Berlin’s panda boys

One cub raises its head slightly, while the other merely blinks sleepily: the panda twins appear only mildly impressed by their naming ceremony and first little outing at Zoo Berlin this morning, when, in accordance with Chinese tradition, the 100th day of their lives is celebrated with an official naming ceremony.

Together with Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller and Chinese Ambassador Wu Ken, Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem and Supervisory Board Chairman Frank Bruckmann revealed Zoo Berlin’s best-kept secret: the panda twins are both male and have officially been given the names Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan. The two names complement one another well in Chinese and roughly translate as “desired dream” (Meng Xiang) and “fulfilled dream” (Meng Yuan). “We’ve waited a long time for this joyful occasion,” said Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem. “Our two panda boys keep making us smile – despite the gloomy December weather.” The twins will spend the next two to four years in Berlin, after which time they will move to China. “As in Germany, too, the giving of names is very important in Chinese tradition, because names carry blessings and hope,” explained Ambassador Wu Ken. “By naming these young pandas Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan, which mean ‘dreams coming true’ in Chinese, we want to convey our best wishes for the friendship between our two countries and our people.”

After spending about ten minutes on display in their pre-warmed panda bed, the cubs were taken back to the comfort of their mother Meng Meng, who was waiting behind the scenes, calmly munching on bamboo. Mayor Michael Müller said: “All animal and zoo fans in Berlin have been following the development of our two Berlin pandas with great excitement. They are a wonderful gift for our city and, in the year of its 175th jubilee celebrations, for Zoo Berlin in particular. I am delighted that I was able to take part in this next step in the lives of our two new Berliners, and to meet them personally on the 100th day after their birth when, in accordance with Chinese tradition, their official names are bestowed. Just like the rest of Berlin, I have enjoyed the exciting wait to find out their names.” At three and a half months, the twins weigh around six kilograms each and are already making their first attempts at walking. Once the cubs are mobile enough to follow their mother – probably early in the new year – the panda family will be on view to zoo visitors.

Background:

Since 2017, Zoo Berlin has been home to Germany’s only giant pandas. On 31 August 2019, female panda Meng Meng (6) gave birth to two cubs weighing 186 and 136 grams. Father Jiao Qing (9) is not involved in the rearing of the cubs – as is normal for giant pandas. Most recent estimates suggest that there are only 1,864 adult giant pandas living in their natural habitat worldwide. Giant pandas are therefore classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Zoo Berlin pays an annual loan fee to keep these rare animals, and 100 percent of that sum is channelled into conservation work such as the breeding, protection and reintroduction into the wild of the bamboo-eating bears. Panda pair Meng Meng and Jiao Qing are sponsored by cooperative banking association Berliner Volksbank.

MEPs call for a reduction in pesticides to protect bees

  • More targeted measures to protect pollinators needed
  • Reduction of pesticide use should be indicator to monitor success
  • More funds to support research into the causes of bee decline

Further reducing use of pesticides, more funds for research and better monitoring are urgently needed to save the EU’s bees, says the Environment Committee.

The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee on Tuesday approved a resolution highlighting weaknesses in the EU Pollinator Initiative that render it inadequate to address the main causes of pollinators’ decline in Europe.

The committee proposes that a reduction in the use of pesticides be set as a ‘common indicator’ to evaluate how effective national measures are in protecting bees and other pollinators.

To help further decrease pesticide residues in bee habitats, MEPs want the reduction of pesticide use to become a key part of the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The committee finally demands more funds to support research into the causes of bee decline to protect the diversity of pollinator species. Indicators of colony vitality should also be developed to measure if implemented actions have been successful.

EU Pollinators Initiative not sufficient

The approved text is a reaction to the Commission’s EU Pollinators Initiative and stresses its measures are inadequate to protect bees and other pollinators from land-use changes, loss of habitat, intensive farming, climate change and invasive alien species. The Initiative fails to address sufficiently the main causes of pollinators’ decline that are essential for biodiversity and reproduction in many plant species, MEPs agreed.

The resolution was adopted with 67 vote for, none against and 1 abstention.

Next steps

The resolution will be put to a vote at the January plenary session in Strasbourg.

Background

In April 2018, the EU agreed to fully ban outdoor use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, known as neonicotinoids. However, several member states notified emergency derogations regarding their use on their territory.

After calls from Parliament and Council for action to protect bees and other pollinators, the Commission presented its Communication on the EU Pollinators Initiative on 1 June 2018.

Australian researchers call for help to save our insects

Flower fly ©Denis Anderson CSIRO

Scientists fear Australian insect populations are on the brink of collapse and are calling for the public’s help to paint a better picture of the problem so they can develop solutions to help tackle the challenge.

Dr David Yeates is Director of the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC) at Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO. He said researchers around the world widely acknowledge insect populations are in decline, but don’t have a true understanding of what is happening in Australia.

“Insects are essential. They provide billions of dollars’ worth of ecological services to us each year, such as plant pollination, waste disposal and pest control,” Dr Yeates said.

“While insect declines are no doubt occurring in Australia, the extent of the problem is unclear.

“We have good data on declines in some iconic species such as the Bogong moth, green carpenter bee and Key’s Matchstick Grasshopper, however very few of our estimated 250,000 insect species are being monitored.”

ANIC holds the world’s largest collection of Australian insects, which are used for research purposes, including into biosecurity, natural resource management and ecology, among others.

Dr Yeates said if more Australians used citizen science apps like iNaturalist Australia  Wild Pollinator Count  and Butterflies Australia  then solutions could be targeted in problem areas.

Earlier this year, a research review of existing insect surveys by the University of Sydney’s Institute of Agriculture revealed 40 per cent of insect species are likely to be in catastrophic decline within a century.

However, most of the studies were completed in western Europe and the US, with a select few from Australia to China and Brazil to South Africa.

The collapse of insect populations in Europe appears also to be occurring in Australia, with entomologists across the country reporting lower than average populations across a number of species.

“The worry is, if insect populations are in decline, so are the populations of larger animals such as birds and lizards who rely on them as food,” Dr Yeates said.

“We know in alpine NSW, there’s been a collapse in Bogong moth populations – a staple food source for iconic Mountain Pygmy Possums in spring, and this decline is resulting in the possums starving, but for most species these detailed interconnections are unknown.”

Experts have gathered in Brisbane this week to discuss insect declines as part of the Australian Entomological Society conference and are calling for help to better understand what is happening to our insects.

“We really need long-term data sets that would provide a better picture of what is happening with our insects – where they are and in what numbers,” Dr Yeates said.

“This is valuable information we need to better understand the insect biodiversity we have in Australia.”

Polar Bear Cub Born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Thanksgiving Day

POWELL, Ohio – The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed a polar bear cub born on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, to mother, Aurora, and father, Lee. The Animal Care team notes that Aurora is being an attentive mother to her new cub, who has been observed nursing. As Aurora continues to care for her cub, she and her little one will remain in their private denning area behind the scenes until spring.

In addition to this latest arrival, 13-year-old Aurora has previously given birth to three litters, consisting of three other surviving cubs. Her first cub, Nora, who now lives at Utah’s Hogle Zoo, was born on November 6, 2015 and hand-reared by Animal Care staff who needed to step in to care for her. On November 14, 2016, Aurora then gave birth to twins, female, Neva, and male, Nuniq, and provided them with excellent care. Neva now lives at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore with her half-sister, Amelia Gray (who was born the same year to Anana), and Nuniq lives at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wis.

From mounted cameras, Aurora’s cub was observed being born at 12:43 a.m. The team has been monitoring Aurora and her twin sister, Anana, around the clock as they have both been denning for several weeks. Both females have given birth in the past, and Animal Care staff are very familiar with the bears’ behavior patterns. While Aurora was frequently resting in her den leading up to the cub’s birth, Anana has shown more activity, indicating that she may not be preparing for a birth. The species has one of the lowest reproductive rates of any mammal as polar bear reproduction is a complicated process due to delayed implantation, during which a fertilized egg does not implant in the uterus for several months to ensure the cub is born to the mother at the best time for survival. Because there are no pregnancy tests for polar bears, the Animal Care team will continue to monitor Anana’s activity as polar bears can give birth from November to early January.

Aurora’s cub born yesterday is the first to be sired by 20-year-old Lee, who arrived at the Columbus Zoo from Denver Zoo on November 7, 2018. His move recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a cooperatively managed program designed to maximize the genetic diversity and increase the population sustainability of threatened and endangered species in human care. Nora, Neva, Nuniq, and Anana’s cub, Amelia Gray, were sired by Nanuq, the oldest male polar bear to reproduce. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 29, surpassing the 20.7-year median life expectancy for a male polar bear by more than eight years.

“We are very proud of the continued success of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s polar bear program. The birth of this polar bear cub is extremely exciting, of course, but the work of our team isn’t over as the survival rate for a delicate cub during its first few weeks is low based on a variety of factors. I am also extremely proud of our Animal Care team, who continually show their expertise and dedication as they work day and night to provide the animals with top quality care. The polar bear is a species that continues to face many threats to their survival, and we are not only helping to contribute to their future with these births, but we also remain committed to sharing the knowledge we gain through these experiences with our conservation partners and others working to help save polar bears,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf.

In 2008, the polar bear became the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened primarily due to climate change. Polar bears are native to the circumpolar north, including the United States (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (Greenland). They are at the top of the Arctic food chain and primarily eat seals. Polar bear populations are declining due to the disappearance of sea ice, and experts estimate that only 20,000-25,000 polar bears are left in their native range. Some scientists believe if the warming trend continues, two-thirds of the polar bear population could disappear by the year 2050.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is dedicated to conserving polar bear populations in their native range. Since 2008, the Zoo has contributed more than $250,000 to research benefiting polar bears in the Arctic. The Zoo is also designated as an Arctic Ambassador Center by Polar Bears International (PBI). At the Columbus Zoo, visitors are encouraged to do their part to save this amazing species by turning off lights when leaving a room, minimizing their use of heating and cooling units, and other ways to reduce energy consumption.