Is She or Isn't She?
Pregnancy Test for Polar Bears?
KCZoo: Cincinnati Zoo’s Post-Doctoral Fellow is conducting a study with Elvis, a beagle from Shawnee, KS, who is sniffing out pregnancies among polar bears. Fourteen Zoos are participating in a study that will test whether or not the feces from polar bears indicate that they might be pregnant. Cincinnati’s Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife identified proteins present only in pregnant bears’ samples. It is believed Elvis can identify this protein through his sense of smell.
This study, endorsed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Polar Bear Species Survival Program (SSP), is using 22 samples from these 14 zoos along with many known positive and negative controls to determine the viability of the results. In a double-blind test, Elvis signaled appropriately on all of the control samples, all of which he had never smelled previously. He will be testing all of the ‘unknown’ samples this week and next, with replications, to make sure his predictions are repeatable and that he agrees with himself among samples from the same bear.
We, at the Kansas City Zoo, submitted feces from Berlin to be a part of this study. While there is no other test for polar bear pregnancy, this study is part of the research mission the Kansas City Zoo strives to be a part of. Whether the result is positive or negative we will continue to care for Berlin as we have been – as though she may be pregnant.
Berlin is being housed in her quiet behind-the-scenes area where “denning” can take place. Polar bears can project pregnancy-type behaviors even though they may not be pregnant. Either way, Zoo Keepers will continue to care for Berlin as though she is with cub.
Again, this study may not be 100% accurate and we will be moving forward with our professional care of Berlin as though she may be pregnant.
Results from the Elvis study will be shared once received. But the “will she or won’t she?” question will continue until we see the cub or cubs with our own watchful eyes.
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