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Two young polar bears, Nora and Hope, will join the animal family at Utah's Hogle Zoo this fall, the zoo announced Wednesday.
Both bears are roughly 18 months old, Hogle spokeswoman Erica Hansen said, and are expected to make their public debut in Salt Lake City in October or November following a one-month quarantine for observation. "We'll watch them for 30 days and then we'll put them out in exhibit," she said.
The announcement comes after the April death of Rizzo, Hogle's resident polar bear of five years, to kidney failure. Hansen said polar bears are scarce the species is classified as vulnerable and the death of Rizzo created a "bleak" situation for Hogle's state-of-the-art Rocky Shores exhibit, which opened in 2012.
"It has been our most-asked community question," Hansen said of public interest in new bears. "Thanks to our contributions in polar bear research, it put us in good standing."
The transfer of Nora and Hope to Hogle was coordinated by The Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Species Survival Plan, Hansen said, adding that both bears will be housed in the Rocky Shores habitat, which features pools chilled to arctic temperatures and underwater observation areas.
"You can really, literally, get nose-to-nose with the bear," she said. "Having two young, playful, youthful polar bears in there is going to be tremendous."