Monday, January 6, 2020

Prosperity, the most famous White Lioness in the world, passes away

Prosperity, the most famous White Lioness in the world.

It just won't be the same. Prosperity, the most famous White Lion in the world, has died at the Cincinnati Zoo at the advanced age of 22.

Click on video:

Gracious, the daughter of Prosperity, is alone now
My visits to the Cincinnati Zoo would usually include a stop to visit White Lion mother and daughter team Prosperity, who just turned 22 on Christmas, and her daughter Gracious, 18.  The two were inseparable. Gracious was used to following her mom around, and where you saw one, the other was always nearby.

Gracious and Prosperity celebrating Halloween

Prosperity's caregivers had determined that conditions of her advanced age had deteriorated, and it was time for her to go.  

White Lions are quite rare, and Prosperity may have been the oldest White Lion in a zoo. Their life expectancy is maybe 17 years, so Prosperity had gone far beyond that. 

Prosperity caught yawning

A plaque outside the window overlooking the White Lions' realm calls Prosperity the most famous White Lion in the world, explaining that she belonged to magicians Siegfried and Roy, and she was the official mascot of the United States Senate. 

Mother daughter nap, with Prosperity on the left
Her story began on Christmas, 1997. Tiny premature White Lion cub Prosperity was born was born into the pride at Siegfried and Roy's Las Vegas ranch, weighing little more than two pounds. Her inexperienced mother did not care for her, so she had to be handfed with an eyedropper. Roy kept her in his bed, and nurtured her. The little cub grew strong and healthy, under the care of the famous illusionists, but she was much younger than the other cats in their pride, and had  no other cubs to play with. Roy made special plans for this little one, so she could grow up in a pride.

Gracious on the left, Prosperity on the right 
Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn, German magicians known professionally as Siegfried and Roy, had a long history with the Cincinnati Zoo and with then director Ed Maruska. They had procured white tigers who had been born at the Cincinnati Zoo for their world famous act in Las Vegas.

Gracious on the left, Prosperity on the right

The Lion Ladies

Prosperity had an extra tuft of hair under her ears,
 especially on the right side. 

Gracious often has her tongue out.
The Las Vegas magicians soon after made a gift to the Cincinnati Zoo of two white lion brothers, Sunshine and Future, born in Germany, three months older than Prosperity. The boy cubs arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo in February of 1998, understanding only German. The keepers had to learn German commands so the cubs would understand at first.

Future and Sunshine
Eight month old Prosperity was presented to the zoo personally during a visit by Siegfried and Roy on August 13, 1998, with great ceremony. Prosperity joined the two male cubs, and Roy called the trio "the Pride of the Millenium," with hopes that Prosperity would produce a new generation of White Lions of Timbavati. Prosperity weighed 120 pounds and was flown from Las Vegas by private jet.

Future and Sunshine

The "Pride of the Millenium" went on to produce a litter of four cubs, three boys and a girl, on April 1, 2001, with Sunshine as the father. Siegfried and Roy came to the zoo to introduce the four cubs to the public. 

From that point on, the two grown males Future and Sunshine were rotated separately from Prosperity and her cubs.

The three young male cubs went to the Toledo Zoo in 2003, at about age 2, where they lived out their lives together. Wisdom died in 2013, and Legend and Courage died in 2015. Their ashes were sent to Siegfried and Roy.

As for the Cincinnati males, Future died in 2014, euthanized for symptoms brought on by old age. Sunshine died in 2015.

Prosperity gives Gracious a cat bath

For many years, Prosperity and her daughter Gracie have had the White Lion enclosure, next to the Manatee Springs, all to themselves.

Gracious and Prosperity
Gracie is getting up in years as well. At 18, she is past the average age for lions in zoos. When Gracie is gone, there will be no more White Lions of Timbavati here. 

Elsewhere in the Cincinnati Zoo, at some distance, an African Lion family lives in the African Savannah area. They are of normal coloring.

End of an Era

An accident in October of 2003 during Sigfried and Roy's Las Vegas show at the Mirage with Mantecore (sometimes called Montecore), one of the White Tigers, severely injured Roy, so the magic act was discontinued. Roy was lucky to have survived, and did make a partial recovery, miraculously. Their magic show, with the big cats, was revived for a bit, but then closed for good. 
Sigfried in his Secret Garden in Las Vegas
The Mirage continues to host the white tigers and white lions in Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden, and they continue to breed them, along with other big cats in the facility, which also features a dolphin lagoon. 

I was lucky enough to encounter Sigfried at the Secret Garden and he was very interested in hearing about Prosperity

There, in the Secret Garden, Siegfried often visits the cats and talks with visitors. I had a long conversation with Siegfried in 2017,  where he talked fondly about these big cats, so dear to his heart. He was happy to hear news of how Prosperity was doing, and told me Roy continues to face health challenges.

White Lions

The White Lions of Timbavati in South Africa were traditionally seen as sacred animals. They had not been seen in nature since 1994, but recently, a White Lion program has tried to repopulate with animals who have not been crossbred. When Prosperity was born, in 1997, only 25 existed in the world at that time  Their pale coloring comes from a rare gene.  According to legend, white lions were children of the sun god, sent to earth as a gift. White Lion cubs are born white, rather than spotted like regular lions. They turn to a tawny blond as they get older and vary from pure white to blond. Some white lion prides have been reintroduced to the wild since 2009.

But you will rarely see White Lions in Zoos, at least not in the United States. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) banned the breeding of white lions and white tigers in 2008, and formalized it in 2011. With White Tigers, it was reasoned that these rare colorings are a mutation and do not naturally occur except through inbreeding.

White lions are not a separate endangered species of their own, but a light colored variance of a subspecies, the Southeast African Lion, found in a certain area.  AZA zoos breed lions for genetic diversity, not for coloring. There are still some private zoos, and zoos in Europe, who actively breed White Lions.

My last photo of Prosperity, in October 2019

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The beloved polar bears we lost in 2019

Fanny (Bam Bam)
We said goodbye to some very special bears this past year. Each one is unique, and a great loss.

Nord - age 17

Nord and his twin brother Felix were b0rn November 24, 2001 in Vienna, to Olga and Eric.

Nord died early in the year,  on January 8, 2019 in Tallinn, Estonia. He had been treated for over a year for a behavioral problem that led to an ulcer on his foot, and his condition had deteriorated. 

Nord and Felix's father was Eric, and their mother was Olga, mother of Olinka. For a period of a couple of months, back in 2001-02, there were four cubs in Schoenbrunn Zoo in Vienna, newborn cubs Nord and Felix, and one year old twins Nika and Lloyd, all with the same father, and the mothers were mother and daughter.

Nord lived in Novosibirsk Russia for five years, then Moscow. He came to Tallinn in 2009

Nord was the father of Nora born in 2013, now in Vienna and a new mother.

Nord's son Aron was born in 2016 and the cub is still in Tallinn with his mother Frida. 

Nord's favorite drink was kefir, a yogurt drink. 

His twin brother Felix, father of Flocke, Milak, Gregor and Aleut and Charlotte, now lives in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.

Bam Bam (Fanny) - age 31

Fanny with my mother, at the Omaha Zoo

The last of the six Olaf and Olga offspring from the zoo in Omaha, Bam Bam died  on February 20.

Bam Bam and her twin sister Patches were born November 29, 1987. For 20 years, Patches and Bam Bam happily lived together in the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, where they were born. They were separated in 2007, when Patches was moved to a much poorer enclosure in Erie Pa, for breeding purposes. Patches may have become pregnant, but no cubs ever survived. In 2013 Patches was moved to a much better environment, a new enclosure in the North Carolina Zoo, where she seemed to thrive, but died a year after moving in. That was five years ago.

Bam Bam, given that nickname because she liked to bang on the door to alert her keepers, was moved, not far from where she was born, to the Kansas City Zoo in the spring of 2018. At the time, the Henry Doorly Zoo was completely redesigning Bear Canyon, and all the residents had to move elsewhere. Bam Bam said goodbye to the only home she had ever known and moved in with her great niece Berlin, who was about the same age as Bam Bam. Berlin is the granddaughter of Bam Bam's brother Shep. The Kansas City Zoo enclosure is huge and grassy and a lovely environment for polar bears.

Bam Bam enjoyed her fine new home, and got along well with Berlin, but died at the age of 31 after developing liver cancer.

Bam Bam enjoying her favorite treat 

Bam Bam really loved her celery. Her keepers would throw a variety of fruits and vegetables into the pool, and she would always go for the celery first. She loved peanut butter too. 

She was very interactive with her fans, and would swim back and forth in front of the glass so she could study them.

Olaf and Olga were the first polar bears I ever saw. I was happy to bring my mother to meet Bam Bam, one of their cubs. Bam Bam was very gracious to my mom, and paid her a great deal of attention.

Nuuk-Nordman - age 25

Nuuk - also called Nordman

Nuuk - Nordman died in March at Skandanavisk Dyrepark in Kolind Denmark at the age of 25 years. 

He and his twin sister Ilka were born on December 2, 1993 in  Kolmarden Zoo in Sweden. He was given the name Nordman. 

While in Sweden, he met a young wildborn bear named Huggies, and he fathered a cub with her in 2001. Huggies and the cub Freedom moved to the Netherlands shortly thereafter. Ilka and Nordman stayed in Kolmarden until January of 2006 when they moved to the newly opened Skandanavisk Dyrepark. The zoo in Kolmarden had decided to not keep polar bears anymore, and there was a brand new zoo waiting for them. In Denmark, he was renamed Nuuk. At the same time, a 4 year old cub bear named Nanok also moved to the new Skandanavisk Dyrepark, which had room for many bears. Nuuk and Nanok became inseparable, except during breeding season when Nanok spent all his time with Nuuk's sister Ilka, which produced some cubs. 

Nuuk and Nanok

Skandanavisk Dyrepark with room to roam

Nuuk and Ilka's mother CW was twin sister to Elvis, father of the famous Tips and Taps hybrid bears in Osnabruck. Elvis and CW were born in Memphis Tennessee. Nuuk and Ilka's grandfather Bruno (in Memphis) was also the grandfather of Cincinnati's Anana, and twins Kiska and Kolluk of Albuquerque.

Nuuk and Ilka's father Imarac was half brother to Churchill, Kara, Lisa, and Mirsha, so they were first cousins of Boris of Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Knut's father Lars, and many other polar bears of Europe.

Nuuk and Ilka were also younger siblings of the late Manasse of Finland, and the late Yukihime, and Baffin of Japan

Nuuk leaves a legacy of descendants. He fathered one cub, Freedom, with Huggies. Like her mother, Freedom is a prolific mother. She has recently given birth to another set of twins in Ouwehands, the Netherlands. She is also the mother of new father Sprinter, twins Taiko and Sesi of France, and twins Sura of Ouwehands and Akiak of Rostock. 

Nuuk passed away peacefully in his sleep. I am sure his good friend Nanok misses him greatly.

Bora - almost 33 years old

Born in Vienna, Bora spent ten years in Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, but most of her life in Prague.  She had one cub, Berta, who still lives in Prague with her mate Tom.

Nika - age 19


Nika died on her 19th birthday in Zoo Karlsruhe in Germany, gone much too soon, much too young. 

She and her twin brother Lloyd were born November 26, 2000, in Vienna to Olinka and Eric. 

Nika came to Karlsruhe in early 2002 when she was little more than a year of age. Both Nika and Lloyd left Vienna shortly after Olinka's mother Olga gave birth to another set of twins, Nord and Felix, in the same zoo with same father, Eric. 

While Lloyd went to the new Zoo Am Meer in Bremerhaven, Nika came to the brand new polar bear habitat in Zoo Karlsruhe, along with two young males, one year old Vitus from Rostock and one year old Kap from Moscow. A year later, ten year old Larissa came from nearby Stuttgart.

Kap left for Neumünster several years later, but the other three stayed in Karlsruhe, and Nika grew up with Vitus. The  three bears got along well, wrestling, chasing each other, and playing games in the large habitat.

Nika, Vitus and Larissa having fun

 Nika and Larissa were very close, and often took naps near each other.

Nika and a sleeping Larissa

There were hopes every year that Nika would have cubs, but it never happened, and several years ago, tests showed that Vitus was sterile. So Vitus and Larissa moved to Neumünster, and Kap came back to Karlsruhe in the spring of 2017.

Again, there were hopes that Nika would produced cubs, this time with Kap, but along they got along well, it just didn't happen, and now she is gone, all too soon.

Nika had been troubled for several years by ulcers on her back leg. She kept worrying at it, chewing on it. The vets tried everything, even put some blue substance on it to keep her from chewing. Her condition deteriorated suddenly, and the decision was made to prevent further suffering.

As an offspring of Olinka, Nika was related to some American bears. She was the great granddaughter of Olaf and Olga of the Omaha Zoo, as Olinka's father was the late Omaha, one of the six offspring of Olaf and Olga, brother to Bam Bam, who also died this year. 

Blizzard - age 5

A five year old bear named Blizzard died while being examined at the Journey to Churchill at Assiniboine Park Zoo in Canada. He had come to the zoo with his twin sister Star as a year old orphaned cub, having been picked up by a helicopter. He had recently been unwell, not eating, and had been put under anesthesia to assess his condition, and was given antibiotics. He was doing well, then his condition worsened again, and he was again put under anesthesia, but did not come out of it. There may have been some heart abnormalities.

There are nine other young rescued polar bears at Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Lutyik - almost age 19

Twins Liya and Lutyik were born December 9, 2000, to Uslada and the late Menschikov in St. Petersburg Russia. Uslada and Menschikov had 16 cubs, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren throughout Russia, Europe and Japan.

Lutyik of the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage died October 13, at nearly 19 years of age. He was born in St. Petersburg, and moved to Australia when he was just a cub, living there for five years with his sister Liya.

In Alaska, Lutyik was paired with Ahpun, but no cubs ever appeared and Ahpun died in early 2018.

Later in 2018, Lutyik welcomed a new companion, Cranbeary, to Anchorage.

Lutyik was suffering from a tumor on his kidney.  

Liya- age 19

As the year closes, we have just heard the sad news that Lutyik's twin sister Liya of Sea World Gold Coast in Australia has died suddenly and mysteriously. She was only 19. She was mother of Henry, born in the summer of 2012 and Mishka, who was born in the summer of 2017 and still lives in Australia. With the death of Liya, there are only theee polar bears in Australia: Mishka and her father Hudson, and another male named Nelson, who fathered Henry, now in Canada.

Rest in Peace, beautiful bears.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The cubs of 2019

Malik takes care of her new cubs in Aalborg, Denmark, December 2019

It is almost the end of the 2019 polar bear birthing season. While there may be a secret cub or two out there, and births could still take place, I have put together a list of this year's new cubs, subject to update! Currently there are 10 cubs, and some potential mothers, such as Anana in Cincinnati, are still denned up.

Most polar bear births take place during the last two weeks of November, and the first two week of December. There is the rare October birth, and it does happen, rarely in early January.

Aurora with her last cubs, Nuniq and Neva, 

Lee is a new father

(1) The USA has one birth to report, the offspring of Aurora and Lee in the Columbus Zoo on November 28. Aurora is the mother of Nora, Nuniq and Neva. Lee is a first time father.

(1) In Europe, twins were born in Vienna, Austria to Nora and Ranzo on November 20. One died right away, but the other is doing well. This is the first offspring for both Nora and Ranzo.

Sprinter looks down upon young Charlotte in Hannover

(1) Also on November 20, Milana gave birth to her first cub in Hannover, Germany. The father is Sprinter, also his first cub.

Freedom, with little Akiak and Sura in 2015

(2) Twins were born to Freedom on November 27 in Ouwehands, Rhenen in the Netherlands. Father is Wolodja, who is father of one year old Hertha in Tierpark Berlin. Freedom is mother to Sprinter (who just became a father in Hannover), to Sesi and Taiko in France, to Akiak in Rostock, and to Sura still in Ouwehands. Grandmother of the twins is Huggies, mother of Freedom! Father Wolodja did his job, and has already moved on to Rotterdam.

Malik with Augo in 2012

Malik and Nord in June 2019

(2) Triplets were born in Aalborg Denmark to Malik and Nord on December 4. One died the day after birth, but the other two are strong and noisy. You can watch them on the zoo's dencam. Malik is mother to the late Augo, and three year old twin sisters Nuka and Qilak, still in Aalborg. Nord is father to one year old Imaq with mother Lynn in Copenhagen, and another just born to Noel in Copenhagen. Nord has already moved to Skandanavisk Dyrepark. 

Click on this link to check in on the little family.

Aalborg Zoo polar bear dencam

Noel in June 2019

(1) Yes, another cub in Copenhagen, born on December 6. Noel finally had her first cub, with Nord as the father.

Valeska with Lili

Lloyd at Zoo Am Meer, the zoo by the sea

(2) The most recent birth was in Bremerhaven Germany, in Zoo Am Meer. Valeska and Lloyd became parents of twins. They are already parents of Lale and Lili, now in Emmen.

Newborn polar bear cubs face daunting odds. They are born so unfinished, and even in the safety and shelter of zoos, there is a 50 percent mortality rate.

In Skandanavisk Dyrepark in Denmark, young Nuno gave birth to twins, and they died soon after birth. The father was Ivan/Boris.

I have heard that Suka in Detroit gave birth to twins, but they did not survive. Father was Nuka.

Some potential moms are still denned up, and we could have further births, so I will update this story if it happens.  


Another cub  has been born in Russia, sometime in December. The mother is Kolymana, who was found as a wild cub in 2012. The father is Lomonssow, one of Uslada's many cubs born in St. Peterburg. The parents already had one cub, a girl named Chaartschaanna, born in 2016, now living in St. Petersburg. The zoo is in Yakursk in the Republic of Sacha in Russia.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Lee comfy in Columbus


Lee is getting comfortable at the Columbus Zoo. The girls, Anana and Aurora, are denned up for the season, so he has the whole place to himself. He prefers to sleep outside in his "man cave," rearranging the raffia bedding to suit himself.

It is Wildlights Season at the Columbus Zoo,
 with lots of lights, even during the day.

Lee's "man cave" and his scratching post

When he does spend time indoors, the keepers give him lots of cardboard boxes to arrange and rearrange in his indoor bedroom, because he loves to decorate. Cardboard would be a problem with the water filtration system of the pools, so he has to be happy with fluffy straw and raffia outside.

Interior Design by Lee

Lee weighs 1100 pounds now

He arrived about a year ago from the Denver Zoo, where he had been living with Cranbearry, although they were kept separate. In Denver, he was showing stereotypical behavior, that is pacing and repetitive movements. It is much better in Columbus, where he has wide open meadows and lots of space for roaming and swimming.

He is very fond of Aurora and Anana, but is making the best of it while they are denned up. He is also very attached to his keepers, and they are very fond of him as well.

His fur is looking great now that it has grown in

I visited earlier this week, and Lee had just had his weekly allergy shot. The keepers have trained him to back up against the bars so he can get the injection, while another keeper fed him watermelon and peanut butter.

Lee thinking about another nap
 He has suffered from multiple allergies, and needs the weekly injections to keep the itching at bay. He was scratching quite a bit on Monday, but his keepers said that he should be much better the next day. They tried to get him interested in playing with his toys, or swimming, but he was having a lazy day on Monday.

The keepers are used to dealing with allergies, as the late Nanuq had a severe allergy to grass, and they had to medicate him for that.

It feels good to scratch that itch

His "itching" grimace

He has his favorite scratching posts, a trunk of a tree that has lots of knobs sticking out. He sometimes rubs on stones too. 

Showing his beautiful teeth which he scratches

When he scratches with his paws, or rubs against something,  he makes funny biting faces, showing his teeth.

Scratching an itchy tummy
Lee has enjoyed his time with sisters Aurora and Anana. Each has produced cubs before, so chances are good we may have cubs again this year.

On his way to the scratching post
 Neither Lee, nor any of his siblings have produced cubs yet. Lee's mother was the late Aurora, and his father was the late Yukon, who, along with his twin Berlin, were the last polar bears born at the Cincinnati Zoo, in 1989.

Aurora and Yukon were parents of Anoki, now in Seneca Park Zoo Lee's twin sister Anana of the North Carolina Zoo, and Haley of the Memphis Zoo.

Lee loves his soft bedding
 Lee is descended on his mother's side from the Memphis Zoo's Bruno, and on his father's side from Olaf and Olga of the Omaha Zoo, and thus is related to many of the bears in Europe, such as all of Olinka's children and all of Freedom's children. Elvis was his cousin, and so is Ranzo.

Lee watches me

 Lee's keepers say that he weighs about 1100 pounds. His fur has grown in and is looking much better than when he arrived a year ago, all nice and white and fluffy. 

Lee blends in with his fluffy bedding, all carefully arranged
A little more scratching
Itchy ear
Lee's itchy allergies are much better with his weekly allergy shots

 I had visited Lee once before, in the summer of 2009, when he was in Detroit with retired rescued circus bear Bärle. He was much more interested in Bärle's young 4 year old daughter Talini who was across the way in another enclosure. Lee could see Talini, who was in with Neil and Buzz at the time, if he stood up. Lee was pacing, then standing, trying to impress Talini from a distance. Those were the days when I didn't have a good camera, so the photos are not the best, but nevertheless historic.

Lee in the grassy area at the Detroit Zoo Arctic Ring of Life in summer of 2009

Lee looking over at young Talini next door - 2009 in Detroit

Lee a decade ago, in Detroit

I am hopeful Lee will at last be a daddy, and we will have some cubs in the Columbus Zoo again.