DETROIT — A mature female polar bear born at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City was killed during a recent breeding attempt in Detroit.
Anana, who was born in Utah in 2000, was killed by Nuka, a male polar bear, at the Detroit Zoo this week.
The Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos & Aquarium had put the two bears together in hopes they would mate. Anana had previously delivered cubs while at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Anana and Nuka spent most of 2020 together without breeding. In October they were separated so they could be alone which is what polar bears like late in the year. After several months apart, Anana and Nuka were reintroduced last week, zoo officials told WXYZ.
First, they had a steel mesh barrier between them that allows them to see, smell and even touch each other.
There were no issues. So, the next day, the two polar bears were allowed to be together in the large Arctic Ring of Life habitat at the Detroit Zoo, one of the largest habitats for polar bears in the United States.
All seemed well, but zookeepers didn't get the sense that the two were ready to mate.
"We didn't expect breeding to start yesterday," said Detroit Zoological Society Chief Life Sciences Officer Scott Carter. "Normally when that happens, we see the bears' behavior change and we begin to see indications of interest by him that can often take several days before breeding really happens."
But, apparently, Nuka was ready.
There were no witnesses to the killing. When zookeepers spotted Anana's body, they coaxed Nuka back into a confined area with food so they could get to Anana, but she was dead.
Polar bears mating is intense and it may appear to some people that they are fighting.
"It involves the male really being in physical control of the female, including trying to hold her by the skin on the back of her neck," he said.
A necropsy is being conducted, but most of the injuries inflicted on Anana were to her head.
"We believe this resulted, probably, from his sudden interest in breeding," Carter said. "And we suspect she wasn't ready and wasn't receptive."
Hogle Zoo expressed its sorrow over the loss of Anana. She was introduced to guests at the zoo back in April 2001.
“It’s a very sad turn of events and that can happen anytime you bring bears together," said Hogle Zoo spokesperson Erica Hansen. "They are solitary by nature. So while it is not common that this happens it is also not uncommon that this can happen."
"We are really feeling for our colleagues in Detroit.“