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Pittsburgh zoo mating male polar bear, 3 females

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm •  Published: March 1, 2014
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh's lone male polar bear is working to make his species a little less threatened.

That is, if six straight months of mating with three female polar bears can be considered work.

"What Koda is doing is very important for the future of polar bears," said Dwayne Biggs, curator of aquatic life at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Koda, 9, is expected to spend the first half of the year mating with his exhibit mate in Pittsburgh, Kobe, 13, and two 18-year-old bears flown in from SeaWorld San Diego, Szenja and Snowflake.

Szenja also came to Pittsburgh last year. Szenja and Kobe each showed signs of pregnancy during the fall, including weight gain and denning behavior, but they turned out not to be pregnant. Such "false positives" are common in polar bears.

If breeding is successful this year, the resulting cubs could become attractive promotional tools that draw more visitors to the Pittsburgh and San Diego facilities. Although that could provide a boost for their bottom lines, officials see a bigger opportunity.

"It gives us an opportunity to talk about the threats that polar bears are facing in the wild," said Maria Franke, curator of mammals at Toronto Zoo.

Toronto is home to North America's youngest polar bear in captivity. The cub, born Nov. 9, quickly became a celebrity. A YouTube video of the cub's first steps has been watched more than 6 million times since being posted on Jan. 8. Its photo — along with the message "You can visit our cub!" — is on the home page of the zoo's website.

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