Brookfield Zoo polar bear couple receives fertility treatment

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It's mating season at Brookfield Zoo, and zookeepers are trying to help a polar bear couple welcome a set of cubs.

Hudson and Nan are the only polar bears at Brookfield Zoo, but a very unique procedure could change all of that and help improve the population of their threatened species.

On Wednesday, female polar bear Nan got artificially inseminated to help her get pregnant. It's a procedure that's never been successful, but if it is, it would give the bear couple a set of cubs and boost the current population of 25,000 polar bears in the world.

A new, larger table -- which accommodates animals that weigh just over 2,000 pounds -- allowed for Nan's male bear-friend, Hudson, to do his part and get a routine CT scan.

"It was a big endeavor yesterday to get Hudson and his thousand pounds of body positioned appropriately and moved through the scanner, but it was really exciting to see that data and those images come through,” said Clinical Medicine Vice President Michael Adkesson.

Hudson was also able to provide a semen sample for his female companion.

"To date there has not been a cub born to artificial insemination in this species, so if Nan has cubs later this year, it will be the first of their kind," said Erin Curry, a reproductive physiologist.

Nan and Hudson have never gotten pregnant, and we should know in a couple months if the procedure worked. If it does, Nan would give birth to twins this winter.

A portion of Hudson's semen sample will also be used to inseminate a female polar bear at a Wisconsin zoo. Polar bears are considered a threatened species. There are 25,000 of them in the wild.

"Global warming and changes in arctic ice have really had a profound effect on their ability to survive in their natural habitat," said Adkesson.