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Maryland Zoo's Polar Bear Could Be 1st To Give Birth By Artificial Insemination

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Maryland Zoo is teaming up with the Cincinnati Zoo in a reproductive research project to artificially inseminate Anoki, their 21-year-old female polar bear.

Anoki had been paired up with Magnet at the Maryland Zoo, but following his death in 2015, there has been no male polar bear at the zoo.

The Cincinnati Zoo's Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife team has attempted four other artificial inseminations since 2012, but they are hoping Anoki will be the first polar bear to give birth following artificial insemination.

"We remain hopeful that Anoki may be the first polar bear to produce cubs as a result of an AI. She was an excellent candidate for this procedure- she is healthy, appears to be cycling normally, and female polar bears can produce cubs well into their twenties" said Dr. Erin Curry, reproductive physiologist at Cincinnati Zoo's Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife. "Only a handful of AIs have been performed in this species...Anoki and the Maryland Zoo have contributed enormously to advancing the science of assisted reproductive technologies in this species."

In February, the insemination procedure was done on Anoki, using sperm from Hudson, a male polar bear at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

Veterinarians also used that time to give her routine exams and check her general health, which the zoo says "continues to be excellent."

The zoo says there is no pregnancy test for polar bears, and their reproduction is a process called "delayed implantation," in which the embryo does not become implanted until four to six months after insemination. So they can't tell yet if Anoki is pregnant.

"In order for the embryo to implant and develop into a cub or cubs, the female must feel that all conditions are perfect -- she must be well fed and the right weight, while finding a safe, quietplace to create her den and give birth or her body reabsorbs the embryo," the Maryland Zoo said in a release.

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