Pagano contacted the San Diego Zoo in California, where senior keeper Nate Wagner didn’t think the idea of a polar bear walking on a treadmill sounded strange at all. These intelligent, curious bears were always up for a new experience. Wagner chose Tatqiq (taht-KEEK), a 17-year-old female, for the job. “She’s incredibly inquisitive, and she’s very happy to participate in just about any kind of activity that she’s presented with,” says Wagner.
Tatqiq and her twin brother were born in the Alaskan wilderness, but their mother died two months later. The cubs would have starved to death, except that their mother was wearing a tracking collar. Its unchanging signal clued researchers in that something was wrong. They found the orphaned cubs and relocated them to the San Diego Zoo. Now Tatqiq, along with another polar bear at the Oregon Zoo that was recruited for Pagano’s study, would have a chance to help bears in the wild.