November 26, 2008

Polar Bear Breeding Mix-Up

In a zoo in northern Japan, handlers of a popular polar bear were in for a surprise when they brought him in to mate with a female and found that he, was in fact, a she.

Masako Inoue, a zookeeper at the Kushiro Municipal Zoo, said that four year old Tsuyoshi, a 441 lb. polar bear, had been living in harmony with a female polar bear since June.

"We thought he was a male, so we never had any doubts as we took care of him," she said.

"But one day we realized that the two bears urinate in the same way, and we thought, is that how males do it? And once we started to look at things that way, we weren't quite so sure."

After doing DNA examinations of Tsuyoshi's hair and a manual exam, the handlers found Tsuyoshi to be a male.

"We do have mixed feelings," said Inoue.

"But because Tsuyoshi was supposed to be a male, she came here, and because she came here, we were able to take care of her since she was very small."

Tsuyoshi was pegged as a three month male after birth, according to Inoue.  She said that it is not uncommon for the sex of polar bears to be misread due to their long hair.

She added that the Kushiro Municipal Zoo will talk to other zoos in the area to see what to do about their breeding plan.