SALT LAKE CITY — Neva, a 520 pound polar bear who hails from Maryland, made her debut on Tuesday at Utah's Hogle Zoo, with the ultimate goal of having her mate with the zoo's resident 1,200 pound male bear, Nikita.
She's five years old and was transferred to Utah from the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore after being born and raised there to help repopulate the polar bear population.
If Neva and Nikita do produce an offspring, it will help global efforts to keep polar bears alive for generations to come. They are now considered endangered.
But in the meantime, zoo keepers want Neva to adjust to her new environment at the Rocky Shores exhibit area.
In explaining Neva's playful behavior with a plastic ring, Rocky Shores primary zoo keeper Michelle Hanenburg explained, "It’s hollow, plastic, but that jumping behavior is what they would do in the wild; their prey are normally seals and what they do is prey on ring seals when they are in an ice den."
Neva also enjoys eating peanuts, her favorite snack, and belly flopping into the salt water pool.
Because polar bears thrive in cold environments, Neva should feel at home in Utah, where visitors can see her in action—through the glass.