Much of the U.S. may still be blanketed in snow, but things are heating up at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. On March 14, the zoo welcomed a big, beautiful and charismatic new resident: Her name is Talini, she’s 14 years old, and she hails from the Detroit Zoo. The Chicago zoo staff and public are thrilled to meet and get to know her, but nobody is more excited than Siku, an 8-year-old male polar bear already in residence at the zoo since November 2016.
According to the Lincoln Park Zoo’s website, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has given Talini and Siku a breeding recommendation as part of the Polar Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP). This is a cooperative polar bear population management effort amongst an array of animal parks.
For a few weeks, Talini was kept behind-the-scenes at the zoo as she acclimated to her new environment. But as of last week, the lady bear began exploring her new outdoor, as well as indoor, habitats. The zoo’s animal care staff has been monitoring Talini and recently began introductions between her and Siku, which, according to all indications, have been very positive.
In the video above, which the zoo posted to its site as well as Facebook on March 16, the new (hopeful) couple cavort around in the chilly waters. “No ice-breakers needed here! Talini and Siku were introduced yesterday and as you can see, they’re getting along swimmingly!” the zoo wrote.
The bears’ apparent chemistry is a welcome sight for Lincoln Park Zoo, which saw its fair share of polar sadness last year shortly after a different female bear, Kobe, joined Siku in February 2017. Unfortunately Kobe, who was twice Siku’s age, experienced a rapid decline in health, reports the Chicago Tribune. Zoo vets diagnosed her with kidney failure and euthanized the animal on Oct. 19.
However, since a young, strapping male bear like Siku is such a “prime candidate,” according to the Polar Bear SSP, a new potential mate — i.e. Talini — was quickly arranged in time for the Spring 2018 mating season. Despite this haste, the process has appeared successful thus far. Dave Bernier, Lincoln Park Zoo’s general curator, tells the Tribune that it’s like “musical bears.”
“It’s, ‘Here are your recommendations. Everyone move your bears now.’ It’s very well choreographed,” Bernier says.
Despite all this so-called polar bear choreography, the zoo can’t force compatibility. Luckily, Siku has good taste.
“He’s really single-mindedly obsessed with her,” Bernier tells the Chicago Tribune, also noting that Talini is “the decider in these things.”
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Apparently Talini has been with another male bear before, but has yet to produce offspring. Still, her experience helps, considering Siku is a younger man.
“They’re doing great. What you’re seeing out here is typical courtship behavior. They’re communicating really well,” Brenier says.
And if a baby polar bear is in the cards, even better. No pressure guys!