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A new home in Austria awaits polar bear Ranzo

The young male polar bear Ranzo has attracted many admirers to the Ranua Wildlife Park in Lapland, as he was the first polar bear cub born in captivity in Finland to have survived to adulthood. As Ranzo moves on to the Vienna Zoo, the park has got its fingers crossed that a new cub will be born later this year.

Ranzo was born in November 2011. Image: Jarmo Honkanen/Yle

Polar bears are an endangered species. The EAZA (the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) has established a special endangered species program for polar bears, the European Endangered Species Program EEP, of which Ranua Wildlife Park is a member.

János Szánthó, the Dutch coordinator of the EEP, found a new home for Ranzo in the Vienna Zoo (Tiergarten Schönbrunn) in Austria. The Vienna Zoo is the oldest of its kind, and at the same it has the reputation of being one of the most modern facilities in the world. Ranzo will inhabit the newly built polar bear fencing, ready this spring, together with a female polar bear born in Holland at the same time as Ranzo.

During the spring, Ranzo will continue to entertain wildlife park visitors with his antics. His appetite has remained good and strong, even after he was weaned and separated from his mother. Ranua employee Mari Heikkilä says the move will take place in early May.  

“It’s going to be a long trip. The animal carrier says it will take five days. It’s not such a big operation for us on this end, compared to the journey that Ranzo and his transporter will have.”

A new cub on the way?

Ranzo’s dam Venus weaned her son in due time in the beginning of February in order to join her male companion, the polar bear Manasse, in time for mating season. The reunited bears have been in heat for the last two weeks and the park expects a new cub to already be on the way.

Ranzo has reached the age where he can get along on his own, without the help of his mother, and so the transfer became timely. Zoos make no money on cubs or animal transfers.

“There’s no business going on, no money is ever paid for the animals. The recipient pays the transfer expenses, but no money is paid for the animals themselves, to prevent commercialization,” says Heikkilä. There are about 200 polar bears in the world’s zoos, half of which are in Europe. Cubs are in short supply, as those in the wild are protected.

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