Rochester, N.Y.- The Seneca Park Zoo may be welcoming some polar bear cubs come November.
The zoo has become the first in the world to attempt the artificial insemination of a polar bear.
Zoo leaders announced Tuesday on March 1 the zoo partnered with the Cincinnati Zoo’s Conservation and Research Endangered Wildlife (CREW) on the endeavor.
According to Dr. Jeff Wyatt, Director of Animal Health and Conservation, the Zoo became a viable candidate for this procedure due to its housing of two older bears. The Zoo’s bears, Aurora and Zero, are both 22.
While Zero has never produced offspring, Aurora raised four cubs with her former mate, Yukon, who died in 2008 at the age of 18.
Zoo leaders say when the timing was right for Aurora, scientists collected the sperm from Zero (while under anesthesia) and inseminated Aurora (also under anesthesia).
The procedure was successful as far as sperm fertility and artificial insemination goes, but zoo leaders say it’s a waiting game as far as pregnancy is concerned. Generally it is an eight-to-nine month process.
In a statement, Dr. Jeff Wyatt, Director of Animal Health and Conservation said, “While many more attempts at artificial insemination of a polar bear will happen, this paves the way for further developing the technology zoos use to measure pregnancy, which will certainly improve the success rate of this type of procedure.”
Polar bears are listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.