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Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

Life in Managed Care

  • Polar Bears were among the first zoo animals. King Ptolemy II of Egypt (285-246 BC) had a Polar Bear in his zoo in Alexandria.
  • The first U.S. zoo established in Philadelphia in 1859 had a Polar Bear
  • San Diego Zoo
    • Harry Wegeforth, founder of the San Diego Zoo, traded 2 black bears for the zoo's first Polar Bear in July 1917; the bear came from Bostock Animal Company of Los Angeles
    • 3 young Polar Bears came to San Diego from Greenland (Bergen, Norway) in 1925
    • A "double grotto" for the Polar Bears and grizzlies was completed in 1931 by the San Diego Zoo.

History in Zoos

London Zoo

  • Polar bear enclosure from 1870 is pictured (however was constructed in 1844). Bars were added over the top (in 1851) once a bear succeeded in climbing out over the bars. One female, purchased for 31.50 guineas in 1846 lived until 1880, a span of over 33 years at the London Zoo.
  • Enclosure demolished in 1905, and in 1910 a new enclosure was completed, with ironwork, costing 1,000 guineas.
  • Sam and Barbara escaped around 1905 in their old enclosure. They bit a padlock off a gate and sauntered off into the Zoo. However, they soon returned to their enclosure after a loud crack from a plank dropping scared them. Sam was purchased as a cub for 18 guineas in 1903 and was shot in 1925 when it was considered that his life had become a burden to him. Barbara cost 25 guineas in 1904 and died in 1923. They were the first polar bears to be placed on the Mappin Terraces (the new exhibit).
  • The polar bears, Sam and Barbara, spent less time in the water than expected (in the 1910 enclosure), and for this reason, their new pool in Mappin Terraces was smaller in surface area, but greater depth.In 1912, Mr. J. Newton Mappin indicated that he would contribute 20,000 guineas to the construction of the Terraces. Work began in 1913. This was the first time that reinforced concrete was used for undulating surfaces. The pool had an underwater viewing facility, probably the first ever built.

Budapest Zoo

  • Record of the first polar bear at the Budapest Zoo is in the early 1930’s. The cub died soon after, and this failure brought radical changes in animal care in the Zoo. The decision to end human interference proved excellent, as the next polar cub that was born in 1933 survived and grew into a healthy bear.

Pittsburgh Zoo

  • Shipped from Hanover, Germany in 1937. The original shipment had only 5 bears because one escaped during the voyage overseas and had to be killed. Their exhibit opened in 1937.

Denver Zoo

  • Early 20th century, Denver Zoo acquired Velox. She was a circus animal and became a military star during the Korean War when she was the mascot to the 31st Polar Bear Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division. She died in 1961.

Live Web Cams

Snow Day at the Zoo

Polar bear in the snow

Polar bear in snow

Polar Bear Snow Day.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Brown (1993)
Clubb & Vickery (2006)
ISIS Web Site
Swaisgood & Shepherdson (2006)

SDZWA Library Links