Prague Zoo's lone polar bear Tom to relocate to Kazakhstan

The longtime resident, who has been living in Prague since 2009, will head to Almaty Zoo following the death of partner Berta last September. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 13.01.2024 09:45:00 (updated on 13.01.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Tom, who is currently the sole polar bear residing at Prague Zoo, is set to relocate to Almaty Zoo in Kazakhstan this spring, zoo director Miroslav Bobek has revealed on social media. The decision comes following the death of female Berta last September, which left Tom as the only polar bear in Prague.

Born in November 2007 at Brno Zoo, Tom came to Prague in 2009 and spent nearly 15 years in the Czech capital, sharing an enclosure with female Bora and her daughter Berta. Despite regular mating, breeding attempts were unsuccessful, attributed partly to the inadequate space for polar bears in the current pavilion, which dates back to 1933.

The upcoming relocation will see Tom finding a new home in Almaty Zoo, where he will have access to three enclosures and an air-conditioned indoor area. Tom holds special significance for the zoo in Kazakhstan, as his father Umca was born there. The hope is that Tom will contribute to breeding efforts in his new environment.

"On the recommendation of the coordinator of the European breeding program, Tom will go to the zoo in Almaty, Kazakhstan this spring," writes Bobek. "This is not a bad destination at all. [Almaty] has a relatively favorable climate thanks to its location, and in the zoo they have three enclosures for polar bears and an air-conditioned indoor area."

Due to the outdated state of Prague Zoo's existing enclosure for polar bears and unsuitable conditions for breeding, a new Arctic Pavilion is being planned at an estimated cost of CZK 1.2 billion. Bobek emphasized the need for improved facilities, stating that the current pavilion lacks the conditions necessary for successful polar bear breeding.

Following Tom's departure but before the new pavilion is built, Prague Zoo will welcome two male polar bears from Warsaw - Gregor and Aleut, born in December 2010 in Nuremberg and currently residing in Warsaw. This move aims to revitalize the breeding program at Prague Zoo and address the challenges posed by the outdated polar bear pavilion.

Prague Zoo, which has a rich history with polar bears since the early 1930s, has faced difficulties in breeding due to the complexities of bear milk and the reluctance of females to care for their cubs. Notably, the zoo achieved a major milestone in 1942 with the world's first successful artificial breeding of polar bears.

The zoo's proposed new Arctic Pavilion, which will cover more than 8,000 square meters, is set to be constructed on the northwest side of the zoo near the Gočár Houses. It will feature two enclosures, four pools for polar bears, and visitor amenities including a restaurant to provide an enhanced experience for both animal inhabitants and zoo visitors.

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