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Nora's second chance

Nora's second chance

In a very short time, Nora has become one of the most loved polar bears in the world. But she almost didn't make it past her first week. This is her story.



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She only spent a year here, but Nora made a big splash at the Oregon Zoo.Her playfulness won the heart of millions and helped inspire action for wild polar bears.But she almost never made it this far. In fact, she was almost never born.

Nora's father, Nanuq, was orphaned in Alaska when his mother was killed. He was rescued by wildlife officials in 1988.
And eventually found a home at the Columbus Zoo, where he met Nora's mom, Aurora.

Nora was born at the Columbus Zoo Nov. 6, 2015.
Polar bears enter the world blind and helpless. They weigh less than a pound, and depend on their mothers to survive.

But Aurora, a first-time mom, began leaving Nora unattended.
Rather than let her die, caregivers stepped in and hand-reared her.
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"It's always difficult to decide to hand rear an animal to be a surrogate parent in the last few decades only a handful of polar bear cubs have been hand reared. And it's a challenge every time, but these animals deserve a chance."

A specialized team provided round-the-clock care, bottle-feeding her formula. Like a lot of young animals, Nora didn't take to her formula right away she had some digestibility issues with it and they had to make some tweaks.

As a result of the vitamin imbalance, Nora was diagnosed with a bone disease.

"At this point she was lucky to be alive. The Columbus Zoo did a remarkable job with what is an extremely challenging situation."

Nora couldn't be reunited with her mom, and a new home would need to be found.


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Nora came to the Oregon Zoo in the fall of 2016.
Staff hoped she could learn from the zoo's elderly bear, Tasul.
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"Columbus was very invested in her transition to the Oregon Zoo. They sent some of her care givers who spent time with her. Once she arrived and really helped our staff learn more about taking care of Nora. So when Nora first arrived just like a toddler she would throw tantrums kicking and screaming if she didn't get what she wanted. One of our challenges was simply helping Nora cope with her own frustration having her be able to spend time with self-directed play and not need constant human companionship. She may want what she wants, she may have an attitude but she is extremely intelligent, clever, fun, playful. And just really a joy to be around."

"We knew we would have challenges with Nora due to her unusual upbringing. Imagine you're a bear being hand raised by people you've maybe seen another bear in the distance but all you've ever known is people and you may well think you are a person."

"Our goal from the beginning was to help Nora learn to be a bear and only another bear can teach you how to do that."

"Tasul was an adult female, had lots of experience with other bears, she'd always been calm and playful and curious we thought she'd be a great candidate."

Tasul was 31 years old at that point, one of the oldest known polar bears.

"Tasul and Nora had seen each other and smelled each other but eventually you have to open the door and when we did Tasul came running out ready for a play session and I think it terrified Nora"

"Tasul was giving all the right signals as a polar bear that she meant no harm to Nora but she didn't know how to read the signals and it caused her quite a bit of anxiety."

"We have a couple techniques for helping animals manage their own anxiety. One is behavioral, we do these Zen sessions where we sit with them and we help them learn how to calm their body and calm their emotional response. The other just like you would with your pet is to use a medication."

"She was on an anti-anxiety medication during that time just to help her calm down. Our number-one priority was still to help Nora learn how to be a bear and to get in with another bear. It was clear it might take longer for this introduction than we had thought for Nora to really learn that Tasul was friend."


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Meanwhile, Tasul had become part of a groundbreaking conservation science project.
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"Climate change and loss of sea ice is forcing some polar bears to have to swim much longer distances. Scientists need to understand how this might affect them."

"In 2015 we began collaborating with the US Geological Survey to look at the energetics of swimming in polar bears"


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Tasul began testing a polar bear swim chamber that would provide valuable data.By collecting the air she exhaled, scientists could measure how much energy she used.
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"This had never been done before and it gave us a great opportunity to potentially get data from Tasul an older bear and also from Nora who was a juvenile. Entering the swim flume was something we trained them to do voluntarily."

"Tasul's close trusting relationship with her caregiving staff is how we were able to accomplish all these things enjoyed participating and these are things that you can only learn from zoo bears. It's just not possible to do it with bears in the wild."

"We knew our time with Tasul would be limited just due to her age. She was one of the oldest polar bears in the world."

"It was around this time we needed to do a medical exam on Tasul"

"We knew our time with Tasul would be limited just due to her age. She was one of the oldest polar bears in the world."

"It was around this time we needed to do a medical exam on Tasul due to some tooth issues that she had and we identified a tumor."


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Just a few weeks shy of her 32nd birthday, Tasul lost her battle with cancer.
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"Tasul gave us the unique opportunity to learn from zoo bears things that might help save her wild counterparts. Sea ice decline continues in this way, some polar bear populations will become extinct. It's critical that we understand what's going to happen with polar bears and how we might be able to do something to intervene."


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It was now Nora's turn to use the swim flume.
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"The first time Nora discovered the flume it was on her own we had given her access to it and she wandered in there and thought it was basically a playpen made just for her."

"Remarkably Nora got so good at the swim flume so quickly that we were able to collect data from her."


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But Nora still needed to learn how to be a bear.
And the zoo was about to build an updated polar bear habitat.
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"we had been waiting essentially for another bear in the population to be old enough to leave her mother. And the goal had always been to try to get them together if we could."


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In the fall of 2017, Nora left for Salt Lake City.
At Utah's Hogle Zoo, she will meet Hope, another young polar bear.
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"Nora has had a lot of transitions in her young life but so do polar bears in the wild. This is about the age where mom would sort of push them off on their way. And they'd have to survive in the Arctic on their own."

"So these are different challenges than wild bears but they're coming at the right time developmentally for her. I think Nora's survival against the odds in an important parallel to polar bears in the wild."

"Millions and millions of people have seen videos of Nora and fallen in love with her. Imagine if all of those people took action for climate we could change the future and it's not just about polar bears it's about all of us. It's hard to see Nora go but when I think back on those early days and her chances of survival and now watching her turn into an adult bear and go off to the next step to meet another bear and be a bear, we couldn't be happier for her"

"Those first critical weeks will affect her joints and her bones as she gets older but she's already defied the odds. Nora is a survivor she is strong she is bold she's confident. She's also a little bit of a peanut she's kind of small which might help with the joint issues. But she's a fighter, she's gonna make it."

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Additional footage provided by:

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Polar Bears International
Kathy Street
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シロクマ:『Nora's second chance』

+ title : "NORA'S SECOND CHANCE"
+ series : "POLAR-BEAR"
+ release : 2022.09.15 / last modified : 2022.09.16
+ clip by : OREGON ZOO @ OREGON-ZOO

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