3 newborn polar bears die at Toronto Zoo

Aurora and Nakita, seen at the Polar Bear Habitat in Cochrane, moved to Toronto Zoo in 2009.



TORONTO -- The Toronto Zoo is mourning the loss of three polar bear cubs.

Zoo officials announced late Monday the cubs -- one female and two males -- were born last Thursday to Aurora, an 11-year-old polar bear, but died in the days after the birth.

Aurora is the same polar bear that gave birth to three cubs last year and violently rejected the litter, killing two of the cubs, leaving ne lone survivor, Hudson.

In this latest litter, one male cub died shortly after Thursday's birth while the two remaining cubs were "being mothered, nurtured and nursed by Aurora," zoo officials said in a press release.

"All was going well (with the two cubs)," they stated. "Despite this, and 24/7 monitoring of the den, on Sunday ... it was determined that the two remaining cubs had died during the night."

The zoo is investigating how the two cubs died. Although zoo staff members were disappointed by the latest deaths in the zoo's polar bear breeding program, they said it was encouraging to see Aurora's maternal instincts kicking in.

"She was learning to be a mother," the zoo stated. "Despite the loss of the three cubs, this is a positive direction in the breeding program and with Aurora."

Maria Franke, the zoo's curator of mammals, said the fact Aurora was doing everything right around this birth is a "huge step in the right direction."

"Given that polar bear cubs are born so small and undeveloped, there are many possibilities of what could have happened," Franke said. "Little is known about polar bear births and rearing in the wild, and it is possible that young female bears gain experience over time before successfully raising their young."

The death of the polar bear cubs comes less than two months after the zoo celebrated Hudson's first birthday.
Despite this latest tragedy, zoo officials stressed they have gained information for the zoo's polar bear conservation efforts.

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