The newest addition to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium isn’t just a polar bear, she’s something of a cougar.
Kobe is an 11-year-old, 700-pound female polar bear who is looking for love. She arrived in Pittsburgh several weeks ago (by way of Tuscon Arizona’s Reid Park Zoo) with the intention of meeting her mate. Koda is a 7-years-young male polar bear who has just reached his prime. Kobe will meet the public on Thursday, and if things go according to plan, Kobe and Koda will soon be snuggling and the Pittsburgh Zoo will be welcoming a new baby polar bear.
The wintry match is the result of a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan, which has a solid record of finding perfect love connections in American zoos.
So far, the two seem to be clicking. It wasn’t love at first sight, but more like love at first smell! Since polar bears have a superb sense of smell—they can smell food from up to five miles away—Kobe and Koda’s first introduction was through their noses. They were able to smell each other even though they were in separate areas.
The first time the bears laid eyes on each other was when Koda was coming in from outside and sauntered past Kobe, doing his best “cool” bear impression. They both showed excitement and curiosity about each other. Keepers put them in rooms side-by-side and neither bear showed aggression, which is a good first step in developing romance. Right now, the bears are chilling out in side-by-side rooms. In the daytime, Kobe and Koda will alternate on the outside polar bear tundra, which, by doing so, will be marked with both of their scents. Eventually, keepers will move them into the same space and hope that love grows. We will keep you updated.
“Encouraging polar bear love is a step-by-step process,” says Molyett. “There is a period where emotions need to thaw just a bit before we are sure that the bears want to be together.”
Polar bear breeding usually occurs from March to June. Gestation is eight months and sometime between November and January bears have a litter of one to three cubs. A newborn polar bear is usually 12 to 14 inches long and weighs just over a pound. They are born blind and toothless and rely completely on their mother. Cubs remain with their mothers for about two years.
The Pittsburgh Zoo’s other male polar bear, Nuka, is enjoying himself also. In November, he moved north to Detroit, where he is being introduced to their female Talini, a 7-year-old female. Keepers say those two are hitting it off as well.
Below are scenes from Kobe’s first day, courtesy of Zoo photographer Paul Selvaggio.