The Assiniboine Park Zoo's Journey to Churchill exhibit is the most comprehensive zoological exhibit of its kind in the world. The exhibit's expansive enclosures, pools, rugged landscapes, and shaded dens provide our polar bears with a stimulating environment inspired by their natural habitat and plenty of space for exercise, exploration and socialization. Assiniboine Park Zoo is also home to the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, an education, research, and transition facility that is the first home for polar bears before they are transitioned into Journey to Churchill. Learn more about our polar bear conservation and research efforts.
Baffin & Willow
In mid-December 2017, a pair of orphaned polar bear cubs were transferred to Assiniboine Park Zoo. The cubs, one male and one female, were unrelated and identified by Manitoba Sustainable Development in separate circumstances as being candidates for transfer to the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.
The cubs were named through an online poll. Close to 5,000 votes were cast for each polar bear cub in less than three days. When the results were tallied, the winners were Baffin (male, top photo) and Willow (female, bottom photo).
Nanuq + Siku
In late November 2016, a young polar bear cub was observed alone in the Churchill area without its mother for some time before wandering near the town of Churchill. Wildlife experts agree cubs this young are not able to survive on their own, so the Zoo's Polar Bear Rescue Team was called into action. The cub, who was approximately one year old and weighed 100 lbs at the time, arrived at the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre on November 22, 2016.
Just a few weeks later, on December 9, 2016, a second orphaned cub was rescued and brought to the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Centre. Conservation officers observed the cub for quite some time alone in the Churchill area. After several failed attempts to connect him with other female bears in the area, it was clear that intervention was needed. The cub was approximately one year old and weighed just 39kg (85 lbs), making him the lightest orphan the Centre has received to date.
The arrival of these two male cubs in late 2016 is reminder of the impacts of loss of sea ice due to climate change. The arrival of sea ice was very late in 2016, which put enormous pressure on polar bears, people, and conservation officers in Churchill.
An online naming poll received close to 4,000 votes for each bear's name. Results were tallied with the clear winners being Nanuq (the Inuit word for polar bear) and Siku (the Inuit word for ice).
At the end of October 2015, at the request of Manitoba Sustainable Development, the Zoo’s Polar Bear Rescue Team travelled to Churchill, Manitoba, and brought two orphaned male polar bear cubs back to Winnipeg and the safety of the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. Polar cubs of this age (about a year old) are unable to survive on their own without the guidance and protection of their mother. The Zoo invited the community to help name the cubs through a Donate to Vote campaign that raised over $18,000 to support the Zoo’s Polar Bear Rescue Team and the continued care of these incredible animals. York was named after the York Factory First Nation, which has traditional lands that include important polar bear denning habitats. His brother Eli was named in honour of an Elder from the York Factory First Nation who lived and hunted in the area between the Nelson and Hayes Rivers. Sadly, Eli passed away in July 2017.
Star (female) and Blizzard (male) were transferred to the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre in September 2014 when they were approximately one year old. The siblings were spotted by helicopter along the Hudson Bay coastline, not far from a well-known denning area. Despite an extensive search, efforts to find the cubs’ mother were unsuccessful. Without her protection and the necessary survival skills, the cubs had no chance of survival. Name suggestions for each cub were provided by schools from the area where they were found (Gillam School, George Saunders Memorial School, and Fox Lake School). The winning names were selected through an online Facebook poll. Sadly, Blizzard passed away in January 2019.
Kaska was the second polar bear cub to be transferred to the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. Like Aurora, Kaska was orphaned when she was just one year old and unable to survive in the wild on her own. She was transferred to the Zoo in November 2013 and joined Hudson, Storm and Aurora at the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre before moving into the Zoo’s Journey to Churchill exhibit in July 2014. She is named after the Kaskatamagan Wildlife Management Area, which lies within the traditional territory of Shamattawa First Nation, and within the York Factory First Nation Resource Management Area.
Storm was identified by Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship as a candidate for transfer to the Zoo from Churchill in October 2013 when he was approximately three years old. He was the first polar bear born in the wild to be transferred to the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. Storm, the “country bear” taught Hudson “the city bear” how to be a bear and was a great mediator in future bear introductions. Storm received his name after a school-wide naming contest was held at Duke of Marlborough School in Churchill. Blizzard, Star and Humphrey moved into the Journey to Churchill in the fall of 2015.
Aurora was the first orphaned polar bear cub to be transferred from northern Manitoba to the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. She was found wandering near the Churchill airport in the fall of 2013. Despite an extensive search, her mother was not found. As Aurora was only a year old at the time, she would not have survived on her own. Her name was chosen after a school-wide naming contest was held at Duke of Marlborough School in Churchill. She moved into the Journey to Churchill exhibit in July 2014.