THE BIG READ | The loneliest polar bear on the planet

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Staff at Oregon Zoo in Portland 
felt helpless. After moving there in 2016, Nora struggled to connect with other bears. (Picture: Oregonian Media Group)
Staff at Oregon Zoo in Portland felt helpless. After moving there in 2016, Nora struggled to connect with other bears. (Picture: Oregonian Media Group)

Abandoned as a cub by her mom at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Nora the polar bear was hand-reared by a group of women. But having spent so much time with humans, she found it hard to form a bond with her own kind and became depressed. In this extract from his new book, Kale Williams follows the quest to find Nora a friend.

She weighed roughly the size of a squirrel. Her eyes and ears were fused shut. Her only sense of the world around her came from smell, and her nose led her in one direction: towards the gravity and heat of her mother, a 272kg polar bear named Aurora.

Their den was made of cinder block, painted white and illuminated by a single red bulb in the ceiling. The floor was piled high with straw. The air, heavy with captive musk and kept artificially cool to mimic the Arctic, was pierced periodically by the cries of Nora, a pink-and-white wriggling ball of polar bear, tucked into the folds of her mother’s fur.

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