Hogle Zoo losing Hope, will gain Nikita in polar bear switch

Hogle Zoo shared pictures of Nikita, with an announcement that bear Hope is moving out, bear "Nik" is coming, and bear Nora has an undisclosed move ahead. Photos: Hogle Zoo

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Jan. 22, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah’s Hogle Zoo is saying goodbye to polar bear Hope, who will head to an accredited zoo in the midwest at the end of the month.

Hope will be part of that zoo’s breeding program, “and hopefully contribute healthy cubs to this critically endangered species,” the Hogle Zoo statement says.

Hogle Zoo works closely with the Species Survival Plan (SSP) to ensure a genetically diverse population. The SSP functions like a massive computer “dating system” for zoo animals, pairing up strong genetic matches with other animals in its database, the statement says.

Moving into Hope’s former enclosure within a few months will be a male polar bear twice her size.

“NIKITA! Great big, male polar bear, Nikita, ‘Nik,’ will be heading to Hogle Zoo from North Carolina,” the Hogle statement says. “And by big, we mean big! The 15 year-old male clocks in between 1,200 – 1,300 pounds – twice the size of Hope, who weighs just over 600 pounds.”

Nicole Pepo, who worked with Nikita in North Carolina, described the large male.

“Nikita is a big and loveable goofball,” Pepo said. “He enjoys playing with toys (sometimes he breaks them), taking naps in the sun and rolling in the dirt. He’s a very intelligent boy and loves to learn new things. He also isn’t shy about telling his keepers what treat he likes with huffs and head-bobs.”

Nik is 10.5 feet tall when standing on his hind legs. His favorite training treat is peanut butter and grape jelly, Pepo said.

After Nikita arrives at Hogle Zoo, he’ll be in a quarantine for 30 days, which is standard procedure. Zoo guests should get a first look at Nikita in the early spring.

Polar bear Nora, Hope’s multi-year companion, will be making a move near the end of February, the Zoo statement said, sharing no further details, but saying they would be forthcoming.


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