Zoo says polar bear Nikita will be leaving, koalas will be 2016 - KCTV5

Zoo says polar bear Nikita will be leaving, koalas will be 2016 feature animal

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

The Friends of the Zoo and Kansas City Zoo CEO/Executive Director Randy Wisthoff announced some changes that will be taking place as they execute their conservation strategic plan. 

As part of the plan, male polar bear Nikita will be moved to the North Carolina Zoo this winter to be paired with a 15-year-old female named Anana.

"The Polar Bear SSP (and the Toledo Zoo where Nikita was born) really appreciates the wonderful home Kansas City has given to him, and how he has developed into such a strong, confident male," said Polar Bear SSP Coordinator, Randi Meyerson. "We realize it is hard for these majestic animals to have to leave but when polar bear cubs reach reproductive age it is really important that they be put in a breeding situation so that they can help the population grow. Animals in our care play such an important role as ambassadors for their wild counterparts, but especially so for polar bears. As flagship species for the issue of climate change, the way they connect with people can play a large role in getting people to understand the issue and change their own habits to help those wild bears up on the ice."

"Kansas City and the Zoo are very fortunate to have hosted Nikita for 5 years - he is no doubt a bear that makes people laugh and smile. Carrying on as our polar bear conservation representative, Berlin will have full reign of Polar Bear Passage. She will help us convey our commitment to protecting polar bears, which are declining in the wild and are highly vulnerable," said Wisthoff. "By working to not only conserve polar bears in the wild but also educating our guests and students, we are helping to develop a new generation of conservation advocates, we can help save these iconic animals."

Nikita arrived in Kansas City in 2010 as a 3-year old 400-pound youngster. In November the 1,200 pound bundle of energy will celebrate his 9th birthday. 

Berlin was brought to Kansas City in December of 2012 to pair with Nikita. As a 23-year-old female at the time, Berlin and Nikita had an on-again, off-again relationship. Over the past three seasons they have bred with no success. 

Managing polar bear populations is complicated, and the zoo wanted to be sure Nikita was able to share his genetics. He was tested and he is viable, which is why he was chosen to pair with Anana at the North Carolina Zoo. Berlin, now age 26, will continue to be Kansas City Zoo's polar bear ambassador.

"We are excited to work with Kansas City Zoo to further the education about and conservation of polar bears," said Dr. David Jones, Director of the N.C. Zoo. "Our recently expanded polar bear habitat was designed to maximize the chance of breeding polar bears. The exhibit has a special den for a mother with cubs, which makes our situation ideal for this purpose."

The wildly popular duo will be getting much attention in the coming months, including a full slate of activities, and the zoo says Nikita will be sorely missed. 

You can support polar bears at the zoo keeper initiated, Putt and Play for Polar Bears on Saturday at Paradise Park and check out the Barrels for Bears campaign. Barrels are one of Nikita's favorite enrichment items. Many guests have heard his stomping, bouncing and crushing of the barrels all the way in the Zoo's parking lots.

As another step in the conservation plan, the zoo says they will be getting koalas as their 2016 feature animal. A pair of koalas will be spending the summer at the Kansas City Zoo and in turn the Zoo will donate funds to San Diego Zoo's Koala Education & Conservation Program.

Click here to view KCTV5's Polar Bear Cam. 

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