This photo was posted today on the Lily&Hope Facebook site, raising questions about the background and nature of the white bear...Here comes the story which can be found in the Newsletter of Assiniboine Zoo Park 2008:
“Black on White” could be the catalogue name of a sequence of photos taken by our Volunteer Photographer Darlene Stack of our pair of Black Bears courting and mating at the Assiniboine Park Zoo on May 26, 2008. Zoo visitors stopped in their tracks to witness the amazing scene, which went on for many hours. The huge, pitch-black male named Brunswick is 12 years old, while white-coloured Maskwa (pronounced ma-kwa) is 4.Maskwa arrived as an orphaned cub in 2004, the tragic result of people feeding the mother-cub pair at the side of a highway near Easterville in central Manitoba . -They were spotted for the time around May 2004.-Charming pictures of this unusual pair (contrasting black mother with a pure-white cub, sitting amid a field of wild flowers) quickly circulated worldwide on the internet, and soon after, tourists began arriving in the area in the hope of photographing the family. Sadly, the mother bear was struck and killed by a truck -on 11 July 2004-, but fortunately a Manitoba Conservation Officer was able to rescue the little cub. Manitoba Conservation officials then transported the cub to the Zoo, where its plight, unusual colour, and great appeal instantly drew large crowds.Maskwa is not an albino, but demonstrates a double set of a recessive gene that fails to form the dark pigment melanin in the hair follicles. She does have limited pigmentation, particularly noticeable on her honey-coloured shoulders. It is currently unknown whether this is the same genetic trait that occurs in a higher frequency in the Kermode Spirit Bears in the rainforests 520 km north of Vancouver, British Columbia. As far as we know, Maskwa is currently the only white Black Bear on display in a zoo. In checking with Manitoba Conservation field staff, there have been a few other records over the years of white adults observed from helicopter in the wilds of Manitoba .
Brunswick also has an unusual history. Fearing he would be struck by a vehicle, the little cub was picked up by a trucker at the side of a highway in New Brunswick , and delivered to the Toronto Zoo in 1996. Canada Post was issuing a set of Winnie the Pooh stamps that year, and the launch was planned in front of the Black Bear Exhibit at the Zoo in Winnipeg -- the home of Lieutenant Harry Colebourn (a veterinarian), who purchased the famous bear Winnie at White River, Ontario in 1914, as a pet and regiment mascot. The only problem was that the Assiniboine Park Zoo had no Black Bears at that time of the ceremony; the exhibit had been used recently to house and breed a pair of endangered Spectacled Bears. With remarkably swift cooperation from two CAZA members, the Toronto Zoo shipped Brunswick to Winnipeg , and a female cub, named Peg (short for Winnipeg ; Winnie was already taken), arrived soon after from the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. A few days later, the stamp launch went on in fine style with two Black Bear cubs frolicking in the background.We attempted introducing Maskwa to the adult pair of bears (with Brunswick neutered, since no offspring were warranted). While Brunswick and Maskwa interacted in a most-playful way, Peg wanted nothing to do with another female, and it became clear that we would have to find a new home for her. Centre de conservation de la biodiversite boreale at St. Felicien , Quebec , kindly accepted Peg, and she is now roaming the natural forest and meadows on the Center’s impressive grounds.Maskwa remains one of the most-popular animals at the Zoo, and children in particular are immediately enthralled by her marvelous appeal and behaviour, often believing at first that she is a Polar Bear. Amateur and professional photographers are frequently seen taking pictures of the black and white pair. It is gratifying to witness First Nations and Metis people making repeated visits to see and talk to her in their various languages, and to pay their respect to this living symbol of the Bear Clan. Maskwa is gaining many fans with her gentle and playful nature, and her innate ability to strike photogenic poses for her admiring public. Bears have played an important role in the long history of our Zoo, and we look forward to the implementation of our Master Plan, which will highlight major new bear exhibits for Canada ’s three species."
Bear Stories from the Assiniboine Park Zoo by Curator Dr. Robert E. WrigleyPhoto credits:
Assiniboine Park Zoo (1-?-, 2), unknown author of mother & cub (3,4,5), Jomoud's Fotothing (6,7), ZooChat Gallery (8)
Sources & Related articles:
- Newsletter Bulletin Assiniboine Park Zoo/08.08 pdf
- Albino cub spawns sensation/Chris Kitching- Winnipeg Sun 02.6.2004
- White Cub/Animal Liberation Front
- The White Cub/ snopes.com 12.08.2006
- The White Bear/Elkford Trails Blog 2008
Unfortunately I haven't found a photo of Peg...
Over the last 104 years (until 2008), the Assiniboine Park Zoo has recorded births, displayed, or found homes at other zoos for an amazing number of 525 bears (a few stillborns are on inventory), including 55 Polar, 447 Black, 17 Grizzly, 4 Spectacled, and 2 Giant Pandas.The most famous bear was certainly Debby who died on 17 November 2008.-
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