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Polar bear cub born at Hokkaido zoo for 1st time in 40 years

A polar bear cub born at Asahiyama Zoo, center, and its mother Pirika are seen in this photo provided by the zoo.

ASAHIKAWA, Hokkaido -- A polar bear cub has been born at Asahiyama Zoo in this city in Japan's northernmost prefecture, and is growing soundly in good health, the zoo announced on Dec. 17.

    Three cubs were born on Dec. 10 to 16-year-old female polar bear "Pirika" and 21-year-old male "Hokuto," but two of them died after delivery. The surviving cub is estimated to be around 30 centimeters long and weighs about 600 grams. The cub's gender is unknown.

    Asahiyama Zoo in the Hokkaido city of Asahikawa became the first establishment in the country to successfully breed polar bears in 1974. The latest success was the first in 40 years, after the zoo successfully bred bears in 1981.

    A polar bear cub born at Asahiyama Zoo, center, and its mother Pirika are seen in this photo provided by the zoo.

    The mother bear, Pirika, was moved from Sapporo Maruyama Zoo to Asahiyama Zoo in 2011. She began to live together with Hokuto from November 2020.

    Asahiyama Zoo director Gen Bando commented, "It's difficult to breed polar bears, but we had a good feeling about this. I'm happy to see the cub grow up like this, and it feels like this is a moment that has arrived at last."

    The cub will be shown to visitors next spring, and the zoo plans to name it based on ideas submitted by the public. The newborn polar bear will join the group of four polar bears kept at the zoo.

    (Japanese original by Nobuaki Tsuchiya, Asahikawa Bureau)

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