LINCOLN PARK — Polar bear nuptials are expected at Lincoln Park Zoo with the recent arrival of a female mate for Siku, who's had the new Arctic Tundra habitat to himself since arriving at the zoo last fall.
The zoo has confirmed that a prospective mate for its new 7-year-old, 9-foot-tall, 1,000-pound polar bear Siku is on site and in quarantine ahead of them being introduced.
Kobe is a 17-year-old mail-order polar bear bride from the Pittsburgh Zoo. She has been allowed to check out her new habitat at times, but without Siku.
Kobe prowls her new digs at Lincoln Park Zoo. [Provided/Lincoln Park Zoo]
When Siku and the Arctic Tundra debuted last fall, the zoo made it clear the 11,000-square-foot exhibit could be divided to accommodate a mate and cubs as part of a Polar Bear Species Survival Plan.
Just last month, Brookfield Zoo introduced the female Nan to the longtime resident Hudson as part of the same plan, putting the zoos — and the bears — in potential competition for who can produce offspring first.
While undeniably good for the species and the environment, polar bear cubs can also be good for a zoo's marketing and its bottom line, as the Denver Zoo showed two decades ago with the mania generated by the twin cubs Klondike and Snow.
Lincoln Park Zoo got a lot of attention out of two sets of twin red panda cubs — Waveland and Sheffield, and Clark and Addison — produced over the last two years.
But it's safety first in the delicate process of introducing apex predators. The zoo has set no timetable for when Animal Care will begin introductions between Siku and Kobe.
How do, uh, polar bears do it?
"Once the female goes into estrous (heat), she and her male champion will mate, with the male mounting the female from behind. Studies of captive polar bears suggest pairs copulate for around half an hour, but copulation times may differ in the wild. In a 2015 study in the journal Polar Research, Aars and his colleague Thomas Smith reported observations of a pair mating for 65 minutes."