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Representatives from the Toronto Zoo and the Canadian Army gathered to celebrate the fifth birthday of female polar bear Juno where she received the promotion to Honorary Master Corporal.
Juno was born on November 11, 2015 and when she was born, Toronto Zoo Staff gave her the nickname Juno in honour of Juno Beach. The Canadian landings on the Juno Beach Sector of the Normandy coast were one of the most successful operations carried out on D-Day, during World War II. Zoo staff made the nickname official, as it embodies Canadian pride which is fitting as polar bears are Canada’s national treasures. When Juno was first introduced to the public in February 2015, she was officially adopted by the Canadian Army and received the special honorary ranking of Private at that time. In November 2016, coinciding with Juno’s first birthday she was promoted to the prestigious ranking of Honorary Corporal. She was and continues to be the only polar bear to be honored and ‘bear’ a rank in the Canadian Army.
“By promoting Juno to the rank of Honorary Master Corporal, we continue to recognize her as a valued member of the Canadian Army community and we recognize her ongoing growth and development. In her short career, Juno has demonstrated her strength, bravery, agility and resilience – at home and while on an 18-month deployment on Op SOCIALIZATION in Winnipeg. There she advanced her leadership skills and we are confident that she will continue her development as a polar bear and a proud member of the Canadian Army,” says Brigadier-General Conrad Mialkowski, Commander of 4th Canadian Division and Joint Task Force Central.
“We are truly honoured that the Canadian Army has promoted Juno to Master Corporal as she continues to be an outstanding ambassador for her counterparts in wild,” says Dolf DeJong, CEO, Toronto Zoo. “The mission of your Toronto Zoo is to connect people, animals, and conservation science to fight extinction and polar bears continue to be an iconic symbol of strength and survival for threatened and at-risk Canadian species. Juno and the other polar bears that call the Toronto Zoo home, play an integral role in educating our guests about the direct impact of climate change and the loss of sea ice that directly impacts polar bears in the wild,” he added.
At five-years-old, she is just coming into her first reproductive year, but she still has some growing to do and is considered a small bear compared to her mom Aurora and Aunt Nikita. Juno is getting more confident around other polar bears and is taking big steps in her voluntary behavioural training sessions and learning all the behaviours that the older bears know, which helps the Zoo’s Wildlife Care Keeper Team provide cooperative care to the bears. As an example, the Toronto Zoo polar bears are trained to allow voluntary injections for vaccines and blood draws.
Juno represents a heartwarming journey of survival, one where expert Toronto Zoo Wildlife Health and Wildlife Care staff worked around the clock to save a vulnerable species. Juno, just like her brothers Hudson and Humphrey, are great Arctic Ambassadors for polar bears everywhere. These ambassadors help to spread the word on how each person can make a difference and help save this vulnerable species and raise awareness about how our daily actions are contributing to climate change and impacting polar bears through the melting of the Arctic sea ice. Your Toronto Zoo’s Tundra Trek is home to the Zoo’s five polar bears, Aurora, Nikita, Hudson, Humphrey and Juno. The Tundra Trek area of the Zoo focuses on climate change and its effects on species conservation.
As a leader in conservation and species survival, the Toronto Zoo is involved in collaborative research projects with multiple accredited zoos and organizations to help better understand polar bear reproductive biology, nutrition, and provide valuable information to support polar bear education, research and conservation efforts in the wild. These organizations include Polar Bears International (PBI), Parks Canada, the North American Species Survival Program (SSP), York University, University of Guelph and Acres for the Atmosphere.