Friday, October 2, 2020

Cousins Nanuk and Nanook come to town


Nanook of Gelsenkirchen 

Nanuk, is Inuit for ice bear or polar bear, and thus some variation of the name seems very popular when it comes to naming those cute little cubs. 

But I believe every bear should have a unique name, which shouldn't be too hard since there are so few of them in zoos. Still, they duplicate names.

Nanuq in Mulhouse, France 

Now we have a situation where two young bears who are first cousins, with almost the same name, are moving in together, along with Giovanna in Tierpark Hellabrunn in Munich.

Giovanna with her daughter Quintana in Hellabrunn 

Quintana, Giovanna's three year old daughter by the late Yoghi, has just moved to Zoo La Fleche in France,  and the polar bear habitat in Munich is quite roomy, with tundra and taiga areas. Two other young female bears have been invited to make it their home. In fact, they have just arrived.

Nanook, with her mother Lara in the water, in Gelsenkirchen ZOOM

Nanook is the daughter of Bill and Lara, and was born in Gelsenkirchen ZOOM December 4, 2017. Bill came from Zoo Brno in the Czech Republic, and is the son of Cora and the late Umka. Lara was born in Vienna in 2004 and is the daughter of Olinka and Eric. Nanook is the only cub so far from Bill and Lara.

Sesi and Baby Nanuq 

Baby Nanuq in Mulhouse, France

Nanuq was born in Mulhouse, France November 7, 2016. Her father is Vicks, son of Olinka and Eric, born in Rotterdam Zoo in 2010 and her mother is Sesi, daughter of Freedom and the late Victor, born in Ouwehands Zoo, both in the Netherlands. Nanuq is the first and only cub from Vicks and Sesi so far.

Sesi and Nanuq 

Nanuq's father Vicks 

Thus Nanook's mother Lara is sister to Nanuq's father Vicks so they are first cousins. 

The Munich zoo plans to give Nanuq a new name, so there won't be any confusion.

All polar bears have a unique number assigned to them too, and in recent years, they all get a microchip so with just a little scanning, keepers can know they have the right bear.

Giovanna in Munich 

Giovanna is also mother to Nela and Nobby, born in 2013. Nela is in Emmen Wildlife Park in the Netherlands, and Nobby is in Yorkshire Wildlife Park in the UK. 


Giovanna is not totally unrelated to the new girls. She was born in Fasano, Italy, and her father, (Italian) Felix, was the son of Gorki and Polly. Polly's sister Aika and the same Gorki were parents of Eric, who was father of Olinka, grandmother of both Nanuq and Nanook. 

Thus Gorki is grandfather to Giovanna, and great grandfather to both Nanuq and Nanook.

Giovanna is also known as the childhood companion of the famous late Knut in the Berlin Zoo, where she was sent while Zoo Hellabrunn was building their wonderful polar bear habitat in Munich.

Olinka of Rotterdam Zoo, mother of Lara and Vicks (among others)

There is an American connection too, as Nanuk and Nanook are both descended from the famous Olaf and Olga of the Omaha Zoo, through their Son Omaha, who is the father of Olinka,  who is the mother of Nanuq's father Vicks, and Nanook's mother Lara. 

The right side habitat in Munich has a large grassy area with a stream running through, and lots of hills and trees. The left  side is rocky, with stones to climb on, and a nice big pool for swimming. Both sides are glassed in, and can be separated, or the door can be left open so all three bears eventually can be together. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Sadness at the Como Zoo - Buzz died

Buzz plays

Today the sad news came that one of the Como Zoo twin brothers had died. At only the age of 24, Buzz's health had deteriorated to the point that he had no quality of life. I had not been expecting this news.

Buzz and the bucket
Neil and Buzz were born in the Louisville Zoo December 9, 1995, named for the first men to walk on the moon. Their parents were Skeena and Irsinaki. Their brother Ulu became the father of Berit, longtime resident of the Cincinnati Zoo. Another brother Icee already was father of Berlin and Yukon born in the Cincinnati Zoo. 

The decision was made to neuter them, so the twins could stay together year round. At that time, there were a lot more polar bears in zoos, and everyone thought their genes were well represented. 

Buzz gets into a milk carton
Thus the twins have been together all their lives. They lived in the San Diego Zoo from 1997 to 2001, then came to the Como Zoo in St. Paul Minnesota, where they have enjoyed nice snowy winters. In order for their enclosures to be renovated and expanded, Neil and Buzz moved to the Detroit Zoo for two years, returning to Como in 2010. While in Detroit, they especially enjoyed playing with Talini, the young daughter of circus polar bear Bärle. 

Buzz was a silly boy
Their home in Como now has a center training area, a big area to the right with live trout to catch in the pool, and another big area to the left with a swimming pool, grass and trees, and a lots of dirt piles and a trench.

Buzz on land, Neil swimming. It seemed like it was that way a lot.

Buzz and the Blue Ball

Neil in back, Buzz in front

Buzz on land
Their niece Berlin came to stay for six months in the summer of 2012 when a flash flood wrecked her home in Duluth. Buzz got along very well with the bossy old lady. Berlin is the daughter of their late older brother Icee. Berlin moved on to the Kansas City Zoo. 

Buzz greets his niece Berlin, who came to live with them for awhile after she escaped from her flooded zoo enclosure in Duluth. She was older, the daughter of their brother, so Neil and Buzz were her uncles.
Photo by my daughter, Corinna Troth
The twins also had some grizzly bears take over their right hand enclosure for a couple of years, due to a flood in Minot ND, and polar bear cubs Suka and Sakari also took over that spot for awhile. So it seemed that someone was always coming or going, with lots to do.

Play Ball, or what is left of it.
 Buzz was always the brother in charge, and Neil went along with whatever Buzz said. Buzz also seemed to be more interested in doing things, playing with toys, digging in the trenches, while Neil mostly wanted to swim. 

Buzz with yet another toy
Both brothers were involved with a revolution in medical methods, having been the second and third polar bears to be trained to put their paws into a metal sleeve for blood draws. This eliminates the need to anesthetize the bear. 

More fun toys
It will be hard for Neil with his brother gone. He always looked up to Buzz to lead the way. I am afraid he will be a little bit lost.

Buzz loved to get dirty. And now it is time for a nap. Sleep well, beautiful boy.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Mother Ilka is no more

Ilka and one of her twins

Ilka has been gone for six months, and we didn't even know.

A friend of mine, a German polar bear blogger who had just visited Skandinavisk Dyrepark in Kolind, Denmark, relayed the information that beloved polar bear mother Ilka had passed away during the winter of 2019-20. She would have been 26 years old. Her death was not announced, but the park has since confirmed that Ilka died in December.

Ilka, cub and seaweed
 Ilka and her twin brother Nuuk were born December 2, 1993 in Kolmarden in Sweden. Their mother was American born bear C.W., daughter of Olga and Bruno, born in the Memphis Zoo in 1979. Nuuk/Nordman became the father of Freedom. Ilka and Nuuk's father was Imarek. Younger siblings were Manasse (father of Ranzo and Sisu), and twins Baffin and Yukihime, who went to Japan.


Ilka and her brother Nuuk

Ilka's brother Nuuk/Nordman, who died one year before

Ilka and her twins

Ilka and Nuuk came to Skandinavisk Dyrepark as it was just opening in at the end of 2006.

Ilka with Nanu and Nuno, waiting for feeding time

Nuuk/Nordman found a pal in the other young male bear, Nanook, who was mate to Ilka and father of her cubs. Nuuk died one year before Ilka, during the winter of 2018/19.

Over the years, Ilka had given birth to cubs, but had trouble producing milk and no cubs survived. When Siku was born November 22, 2011, the park director stepped in and took over the care of the tiny cub, since Ilka again was not producing milk. Siku was raised by hand, with many photos and videos posted. You could watch him on webcam too, as he grew up. Danish Siku became an internet sensation. He still lives in the park.

Baby Siku, raised by hand, would suckle on pieces of wood

A new treatment for milk production was given to Ilka when she gave birth to Nuno and Nanu a year later, and she was able to raise the twins with no problem. When they were old enough and big enough, Siku (who was only a year older) was brought in as a playmate for the twins, and the family got along very well. 

In 2014 - Siku, Nuno and Nanu playing together

The beautiful Ilka

Feeding time. Ilka and the cubs would line up and wait.

Siku is still there, as well as Nuno, the girl, who remains at Skandinavisk Dyrepark. Her twin Nanu, who spent some time with older bear Felix in Leuwaarden, the Netherlands, is now in Parc Zoo du Reynou, France, with another young male bear.
Ilka and her daughter Nuno

Ilka and Nanu, waiting for food

Ilka and Nuno

Nuno, Ilka and Nanu at feeding time

Ilka was 26 years old. She was a lovely bear, a good mother.

Ilka and her twins in 2014

Mother Ilka with Nanu and Nuno


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Kulu is one big little guy


For polar bear fans, 2020 has been a disappointing year so far with zoo trips out of the question for so many months, and Europe not even a possibility. With so many cubs to potentially visit in Europe, and even Flocke's triplets in France, sadly all travel plans had ground to a halt. I hadn't been to a zoo since Qannik's birthday party in Louisville in January.

But there is one cub I have really been looking forward to meeting, and he is very close by. Kulu is the only cub in the United States, well, really the only cub in this hemisphere, in a zoo setting anyway.

Kulu and Aurora on the big rock

When would I get my chance to finally meet this little guy, who was born Thanksgiving Day in 2019?

Kulu's father Lee

I had gone up to Columbus in November of 2019, it seems so long ago, to see Lee, father of the cub.

By the time Kulu was six months old, the Columbus Zoo had been closed for three months. Kulu had gotten used to the outside area with no one to watch him but his mother and the keepers. The zoo finally announced they would open on June 12. I got my timed ticket for 10 a.m. on Friday, June 19. I would finally get to meet Kulu. 

I was disappointed that, although the zoo had told the public that masks were highly recommended, about 90 percent of the people were not wearing a mask or keeping their distance.  The zoo was keeping the attendance fairly low, and I had a KN-95 mask, so I felt fairly safe, but it still made me wary, and it was harder to get photos with so many people crowding to see darling Kulu.

Kulu bites his paw

Swimming Kulu 

Kulu with his Blue Ball 

Blue Bucket


Kulu watches everything

Kulu balancing on the logs

Kulu isn't a cute little tiny cub anymore. Well, he is still cute, but he's a roly poly strong little guy weighting 180 pounds (about 82 Kg) at not quite seven months of age.

Kulu is growing every day. He is such a big boy

He followed his mom Aurora around for awhile. Sometimes they would disappear into the private area on the left, and I think Aurora prefers to feed her cub without an audience.

Mother Aurora on the big rock pillar

When Mother Aurora decided to climb onto the big stone pillar over the diving pool for a nap, Kulu went off on his own, being very confident and independent. He played with his toys, especially a small red plastic carton. He also likes his blue ball, his red top, and his red block. I imagine his keepers change his toys out frequently to keep him amused.

Kulu chews

Kulu likes the smell ports under the stone pillar and the wooden dock too. The keepers can disperse interesting perfumes and other smells there to keep him interested.

Kulu at one of smell ports, wearing some seaweed

The cub also keeps an eye on the live trout. His mother is trying to teach him to catch the fish, and he dives in to try, but so far, has not been successful. Still, he tries.

There's Mother Aurora, and maybe a fish?

Looking for his red toy or a fish?

Splash! Kulu isn't so good at diving yet.

Trying for another fish.  And trying to improve his diving form.

He is not an adept diver. He usually just falls headfirst into the pool, but he does love swimming around, trying to catch the elusive fish. 

Mother Aurora strolls as Kulu plays

As Kulu plays, he keeps an eye on his mom, just checking to see that she is still there. Aurora is always aware of where her little cub is, even when she is napping.


Going for the Blue Ball

Kulu trying to pay equal attention to all his toys

Kulu loves to swim, spending most of his time in the water

Aurora is an experienced mother. She gave birth to her first cub Nora in 2015, a cub who was raised by keepers and went to another zoo before she was one year old. Nora is now at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City with her Aunt Hope, Aurora's little sister of the same age as Nora. 

In 2016, Aurora gave birth to twins, Neva and Nuniq, and her twin sister had Amelia Gray. The twin sisters and their families alternated days in the public viewing area, and elderly Daddy Nanuq came out at night. This time Aurora took great care of her cubs.

After old Nanuq passed away, and Neva and Amelia Gray moved to Maryland and young Nuniq moved to Madison Wisconsin, a new male bear arrived in Columbus to be a companion for twins Anana and Aurora. Lee was born in 1999 the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester NY. Lee's mother was Aurora, and his father was the late Yukon, twin brother of Berlin, born in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1989. Lee had moved around a bit, had been in Lincoln Park, Milwaukee, Detroit and Denver, and had never fathered any cubs before Kulu. His genes are especially valuable as his sisters Anoki and Hayley, and twin sister Anana (of North Carolina) have not produced cubs. He is a descendant of Olaf and Olga, through Shep. He is also descended from Bruno of the Memphis Zoo, so is related to many of the European polar bears.

The Columbus Zoo currently alternates having Aurora and her cub Kulu in the public exhibit on one day, and Lee and Anana on the next day. The schedule is subject to change. The pair not on public view has a spacious hidden enclosure with pool.

Kulu keeping his eye on everything

He is a curious cub

Kulu has a secret sheltered area under the big rock pillar where he can hide
and still watching everything, including his mom up top.

Little Kulu asks his mom to wake up
 and come into the water to play

A little wet after a dip in the pool. Shaking it off.

Aurora's grandma Arki (her father Marty's mother) loved lettuce sandwiches, and it seems that Aurora does too. Aurora gobbled down the bread and the Romaine lettuce. Kulu had some too. 

Aurora has some bread thrown into the water

Romaine Lettuce, a favorite

Like her late Grandma Arki, Aurora likes lettuce

Kulu wants some too

Kulu steals a few leaves

Yes, she loves her lettuce

Kulu loves his mom

Lettuce is good for a mask, too. We are supposed to wear masks.

It was such a treat to see Kulu and his playful antics. Mother Aurora was fun too. She loves to play and can be a silly girl.

The Columbus Zoo has a docent stationed in the polar bear viewing area, so I was glad to have someone to answer my questions.  I hope to get back to Columbus soon to see just how much Kulu has grown. He's the only cub I can go see for the time being, so he had better get used to my visits. 

Bye for now, Kulu