Goodbye Hope, Hello Nikita!

Utah’s Hogle Zoo is feeling the winds of change as it says farewell to five-year-old polar bear, Hope, at the end of January. She will head to an accredited zoo in the Midwest to be a part of their breeding program and hopefully contribute healthy cubs to this critically endangered species.

As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Hogle Zoo works closely with the Species Survival Plan (SSP) to ensure a genetically diverse population. The SSP functions like a massive computer dating system for zoo animals, pairing up strong genetic matches with other animals in its database.

What does that mean for Hogle Zoo?

NIKITA! Great big, male polar bear, Nikita, ‘Nik,’ will be heading to Hogle Zoo from North Carolina. And by big, we mean big! The 15 year-old male clocks in between 1,200 – 1,300 pounds – twice the size of Hope, who weighs just over 600 pounds.

“Nikita is a big and loveable goofball,” said Nicole Pepo, who worked with Nikita in North Carolina. “He enjoys playing with toys (sometimes he breaks them), taking naps in the sun and rolling in the dirt. He’s a very intelligent boy and loves to learn new things. He also isn’t shy about telling his keepers what treat he likes with huffs and head-bobs.”

When Nik is standing on his hind legs, he is 10 1/2 ft. tall! Nik loves training and his favorite treat? Peanut butter and grape jelly!

After Nikita arrives safely at Hogle Zoo, he’ll be in a quarantine for 30 days; a standard procedure that allows the veterinary team time to give a thorough check up. Zoo guests should look to see Nikita in the early spring.

Nora, Hope’s five-year-old companion, will be making a move of her own toward the end of February, details forthcoming.

Hogle Zoo has a long standing commitment to polar bears. Through its partnership with Polar Bears International (PBI), the Zoo has contributed both funding and staff support to ensure the survival and preservation of this important and critically endangered species.

For more information on PBI, the Zoo’s work to help save polar bears in the wild or the upcoming International Polar Bear Day on Feb. 27, please visit

About Utah’s Hogle Zoo

Utah’s Hogle Zoo is one of only 225 accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) .Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you and a better future for all living things. AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, visit

Media Contact:

Erica Hansen

Manager, Community Relations