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Press Release

Polar Bear Moves

October 6, 2020

Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo Announces Polar Bear Moves

Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo is preparing for some big changes this month. The Zoo’s male polar bear, Nuniq, will be moving to the Kansas City Zoo this October.

The Zoo is working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Polar Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), which oversees the population management of many endangered species within AZA institutions to enhance the conservation of the species in the wild. The SSP has recommended that Nuniq be transferred to the Kansas City Zoo. He will join Berlin, a 31-year-old female, who has lived here there since December 2012.

Nuniq, who will turn 4 in November, arrived at Henry Vilas Zoo in 2018. Nuniq was one of three polar bear cubs born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in 2016. Nuniq was the offspring of Nanuq, a polar bear who lived at the Henry Vilas Zoo for two decades.

“Nuniq truly is an ambassador for his species,” said Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz. “We are obviously going to miss him, but we know this move is what is best for him. Our main priority has always been to do what is right for our animals.”

Once Nuniq has been moved, the Zoo will welcome a one-year old male cub from the Toledo Zoo. Bo, which is short for Borealis, will be turning two in December and is at an age when he would be leaving his mother in the wild. Henry Vilas Zoo’s female polar bear, Berit, has proven to be an excellent companion for young bears.

“Our mission is to protect and conserve the natural wonders of world,” said Schwetz. “We try to do as much as we can to promote conservation and tell our guests what they can do to help polar bears in the wild. By teaching guests about the importance of sea ice and the impacts of climate change, we can directly impact what happens to polar bear habitats in the wild.”

Polar bear populations in the wild are declining as arctic ice shelves shrink and they have fewer places to hunt. There are currently only 57 polar bears in zoos in the U.S. due in part to the strict animal care standards that have to be met. Henry Vilas Zoo built the award winning Arctic Passage exhibit to house polar bears in 2018. The Arctic Passage was the largest expansion in the Zoo’s 104-year history.

Guests who would like to visit Nuniq before his departure have until October 12. The Zoo is open daily from 9:30am – 4:30pm. All guests ages 5 and up are required to wear a face mask at the zoo.