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They're Not 'In Love,' Denver Zoo Says As Petition To Keep Polar Bears Together Gains Support

Denver Zoo
Polar bears Cranbeary and Lee will move to the Alaska Zoo and the Columbus Zoo this fall.

Almost 30,000 people have signed a petition to keep the Denver Zoo’s polar bears together.

The petition on the site Care2 calls for both bears to be sent to a sanctuary following the zoo's recent announcement that the bears would be separated. Cranbeary is going to the Alaska Zoo at the end of October and Lee will go to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio in November.

“For six years, Cranbeary and Lee have lived together at the Denver Zoo, and by the looks of it, the two have gotten quite close,” the petition stated. “Unfortunately, the two are about to (be) ripped apart.”

Credit Courtesy Denver Zoo
Polar bears are solitary animals, said Denver Zoo's Jake Kubie. Cranbeary and Lee are actually kept apart most of the time because being too close together would be agitating to the animals.

But Denver Zoo director of communications Jake Kubie said people have the wrong idea about this couple. Starting with the idea that they are a couple.

“They’re not bonded,” Kubie said. “They’re not in love. They don’t mate for life. And they actually don’t like each other about 11 months of the year.”

Polar bears are very solitary creatures, he said. Cranbeary and Lee are only together for about four to six weeks each year in the spring during mating season.

“Other than that, they are kept in separate habitats because they actually get very agitated with each other and will tend to fight otherwise,” Kubie said. “People are always applying human traits (to animals) and polar bears, in particular, are probably the biggest victim of that. I don’t know if it’s pop culture or the Coke commercials or what, but there’s this idea that polar bears have these family units that are deeply bonded, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

The petition further maintains that putting the bears in any zoo is harmful as it suppresses their natural instincts.

Credit Courtesy Denver Zoo
Cranbeary and Lee have been at the Denver Zoo for six years. Once they leave, it will be the first time in more than 80 years that the zoo has not had polar bears.

But the decision to move the bears is being done to protect them, Kubie said. The bears have been together for six years without producing any offspring. There are only 44 polar bears in zoos in the United States.

“These decisions are obviously very difficult,” he said. “We know that there is a major connection to polar bears for our guests and the community. They’ve been here a long time. But what we want people to know is that we’re doing this -- both out of love for Cranbeary and Lee, and polar bears as a whole.”

The zoo is doing special “Keeper Talks” each weekend at the Northern Shores exhibit space so people can learn more about the polar bears as well as have a chance to say goodbye. This will be the first time in more than 80 years that the Denver Zoo will not have polar bears.

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