MEMPHIS ZOO PREPARES FOR POSSIBLE POLAR BEAR BIRTH

MEMPHIS, TENN. - The Memphis Zoo staff is cautiously optimistic about the arrival of a polar bear cub this fall. 8-year-old "Haley," who has called the Memphis Zoo home since the opening of Northwest Passage in February 2006, may be pregnant with her first cub.

Haley and mate, "Payton," came to Memphis from Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Ill and have been together since they were introduced in November 2005. Their pairing was orchestrated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan - a carefully managed breeding andconservation program for endangered and threatened species.

"We're extremely excited about the possibility of a polar bear birth,"says Matt Thompson, Curator of Mammals. "We are closely monitoring Haley's progress, and are putting a pregnancy watch into effect. We will isolate her from Payton so that she can make her den and prepare to give birth." 

Haley will be placed in the black bear yard, and the black bears will inhabit the polar bear exhibit.  The black bear yard was constructed as a polar bear maternity area and was designed with a mother and cub in mind.  

It is difficult to determine if Haley is pregnant but zookeepers are treating her as though she is and are taking all necessary precautions to ensure a safe delivery. If she is pregnant, zookeepers estimate that she will give birth in late October to mid-November. This will be the first polar bear birth at the Memphis Zoo since 1979. 

After birth, the cub(s) will remain off-exhibit in their birthing den for at least two months and will start making public appearances in February or early March. 

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