The Toronto Zoo’s polar bear new cub has a name – Juno.
Private Juno that is. The zoo’s newest polar bear is also the newest member of the Canadian Army.
The female bear’s name was announced Thursday, Feb. 25, along with the news she has been officially adopted by the Canadian Army, which she will represent as its mascot.
The announcements were made during a media event at the Zoo, where Juno made a special appearance. The cute cub ran, bounced and tumbled around, full of excitement.
“We are proud and happy to adopt Juno into the Army today and promote her immediately to the rank of Private,” said Brigadier General David Patterson, Deputy Commander of the 4th Canadian Division, at the event.
“I believe that Private Juno will have a long and successful career in the Army with us. Like all good soldiers, I’m sure she’ll work hard and advance in rank over the years. Eventually she could be known as Sergeant Juno, or Captain Juno, or perhaps even one day General Juno.”
Juno was born at the Zoo on Remembrance Day, Nov. 11, 2015. Her name honours the accomplishments of Canada’s Armed Forces during the Second World War.
“When thousands of Canadian soldiers joined our Allies for the D-Day landings on the 6th of June, 1944, the code name assigned to the Canadian landing beach was Juno,” noted Brig.-Gen. Patterson. “Ever since that, Juno Beach has been an important part of our Canadian military history and heritage.”
Members of the public can get a glimpse of Juno starting Saturday, Feb. 27, International Polar Bear Day. The polar bear will be padding around her public enclosure between 10 a.m. and noon, and 1 and 3 p.m. daily.
“She’s just great, she’s just a sweet little bear,” said Dawn Mihailovic, Toronto Zoo wildlife health technician. “She’s just been a lovely little baby to raise and to work with.”
Juno was one of two cubs born to mom Aurora and dad Inukshuk on Remembrance Day. Unfortunately her sibling did not survive the first 24 hours, because Aurora was not producing milk. Staff intervened and moved Juno to the Zoo’s intensive care unit to save her life.
“She proved to be a fighter,” said John Tracogna, Toronto Zoo CEO. “At less than 800 grams at birth, she has now grown to become stronger and now weighs more than 10 kilograms.”
Mihailovic said it’s interesting to see the differences between Juno and her older brothers Hudson and Humphrey, who now live at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg.
“She’s actually very different than the other two,” she noted. “She’s extremely curious, but without being as nervous as the other two. She’s actually pretty confident. She needs a little bit of reassurance, she is still a baby, but just is really curious, adventurous and really smart. It’s amazing, between the three of them, each one has had a little different personality.”
Juno is also extremely playful, she added, which was evident as the fluffy cub raced and rolled around during her unveiling. She seemed to love all the attention, standing up on her hind legs to lick and press her paws against the glass between her and her admirers.
She likes playing with toys, and has a personal favourite.
“She has a particular white step-stool that she adores,” Mihailovic shared. “Ever since she was little, she just loves playing with it, and she’ll sit on it and climb under it and everything. We give her a variety of different interactive toys and structures to climb, and it’s great now that she’ll be actually interacting with the public, so that will be a whole other dimension for her to explore.”
She explored another new dimension recently, experiencing her first snow fall earlier this month.
“She’s liking it,” Mihailovic said of the snow. “At first the blowing snow on her face, she wasn’t so sure about, so she’d kind of shake her head and be like what’s this falling on me, but now she’s great. Now she’s quite comfortable, she’s sticking her face in the snow, she’s digging in it, rolling around in anything she can find.”
She’s also enjoying training, learning to answer to her name and to sit and stay when asked, which will help staff with examinations when she’s larger. She recently had meat introduced to her diet, which also includes formula and a moistened fish-based dog kibble. In a few more weeks she’ll start eating small fish, eventually moving onto larger fish, and fruit and vegetable treats.
The Zoo has a long history of working to conserve polar bears in captivity and the wild. Zoo staff hope animals like Juno will act as Arctic ambassadors, helping raise more awareness and support for polar bears and other vulnerable Arctic species.
“Polar bears are at risk of becoming endangered if global warming is not addressed,” said Tracogna. “Given the rapid environmental changes that polar bears are facing, it is vital to understand how these changes will affect wild polar bear populations.”
Every new polar bear is important to the survival of the species, noted Scarborough-Rouge River Councillor Raymond Cho, chair of the Toronto Zoo’s management board.
“With all this climate change, and with global warming, the birth of a polar bear is very significant,” said Cho. “The Toronto Zoo is very proud to be participating in the Species Survival Plan, and Juno is the latest ambassador for this success story.”
An ambassador for both the Arctic and the Canadian Army, Juno is sure to be a popular attraction at the Toronto Zoo. It is unknown if she will remain at the Zoo when she gets older, or if she will move on to another like her older brothers.
The Toronto Zoo has long supported Canada’s Armed Forces, hosting a Remembrance Day ceremony for more than 30 years. Juno is just another testament to that support, said Brig.-Gen. Patterson. The Canadian Army already had a symbolic Juno the polar bear mascot, a costumed character who was there to help introduce his live counterpart.
“Polar bears are brave, strong, resilient, tenacious, agile and more than capable of defending themselves, just like our Canadian soldiers,” said Brig.-Gen. Patterson. “The polar bear is an enduring symbol of our north, strong and free, as is our Canadian Army. So it seemed very fitting that we chose a polar bear as our Canadian Army mascot, and it is more than appropriate here today to complement our mascot by adopting this living symbol of Juno, of our heritage and values, into the Canadian Army.”
Several members of the Canadian Army came out to celebrate the adoption of Juno, which they marked by presenting a framed certificate to Zoo staff.
“I am very proud to welcome this newest member of the Canadian Army family,” said Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse, Commander of the Canadian Army. “Aptly named Juno, she will stand as a living example of the bravery, tenacity and strength of our soldiers who were instrumental in the success of D-Day operations on the shores of Normandy in 1944.”
Along with the cub’s public unveiling, the Zoo is also hosting a Polar Bear Fest and its annual Move Your Paws for the Polar Bear Cause walk and run Feb. 27. Visit www.torontozoo.com/Events for more information about the events.