Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Qannik's in the doghouse!

Little Miss Qannik, new arrival at the Louisville Zoo, loves her doghouse. She likes to climb inside, move it around, knock it down the stairs, make it into a roof for her ice pool, and tip it over to make a cozy cradle. Qannik recently arrived in Louisville after being rescued in Alaska, and spending some time in the Alaska Zoo.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Qannik arrives at the Louisville Zoo!

Girls just wanna have fun. That's little Qannik, the 7 month old polar bear cub now living at Glacier Run at the Louisville Zoo. She has plenty to eat, lots to do, and a bright future.

This is a far different world than the one she faced back in April, when she was found wandering alone, separated from her mom and sibling, near an oilfield. It was touch and go to rescue her, and she was drastically underweight, only weighing 15 pounds, about half what she should have weighed at that age.

She was lovingly cared for at the Alaska Zoo, where she quickly became a crowd favorite. But the Alaska Zoo didn't have the facilities to care for her permanently. The people at the Alaska Zoo had become very fond of the little rescued cub, and she even got to meet Jack Hanna.

When it was time for Qannik to leave her friends at the Alaska Zoo, UPS generously provided the logistically complicated flight to bring Qannik and her staff to Louisville, where she settled into the fabulous new Glacier Run habitat in late June.
Playing inside the igloo doghouse

Playing in the mulch pit - in a plastic swimming pool 

Look at me! I just knocked over the doghouse!

Lots of toys

She now weighs in at a hefty 125 pounds (on Sept. 6, plus a pound a day, so probably more like 135 pounds now) and meets her adoring fans from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. each day. The ice princess holds court in her toy-filled bear condo across from the big pool in bear alley. She is supervised 24 hours a day, and is always accompanied by her “staff” when the public can see her. She is observed through video-cameras at all times. Her caretakers come spend time with her in the evening, too. They feed her three times a day, change out her toys often so she is always entertained (between naps), lead her during her running romps, and keep detailed journals of her interactions, reactions, moods, and activities. She is now past the age when keepers can be in her enclosure with her, but they interact with her all the time.
Qannik's condo. With some of the posters removed, Qannik's fans can get a good look. The door on the end is usually open during 10-12 and 2-4 daily, with keepers present to supervise. There is a grid inside the door.  The big pool is just across the road from the "Loading Dock." Qannik will be swimming in the big pool sometime in the next few weeks.

The glass walls of her condo are still semi-covered with posters, but there are plenty of viewing spots with a clear view of this little furry dynamo. While she was used to crowds at the Alaska Zoo, she wasn't used to glass, and the Louisville Zoo is gradually removing the papers from her walls.

Keeper Jane Anne Franklin says that they are working hard to keep Qannik busy, so she won't develop the “stereotypical” pacing you sometimes see in zoo bears. Whatever Qannik anticipates, her keepers do the opposite, says Jane Anne. They give her new toys, new textures, and games. She plays with ice-filled pools, cardboard, mulch, straw, greenery, balls, chew toys, and boxes. Often, things are hidden inside the boxes, or in jute bags, so the cub will have fun puzzling them out. There is an igloo doghouse that Qannik likes to push around, hide in, and turn over to make a cozy bed. The enclosure has stairs, several levels and a truck bed, and the cub is always jumping and climbing. She also has access the the downstairs bedroom and pool area, if she wants to nap down there. There is also a covered overhead crossing that Qannik uses as a raceway. More on that in a future postings.

Heading for the pool of ice.

Jane Ann says that if you can keep a cub busy enough, you can prevent the development of the stereotypical pacing behavior, and once the bear get past a certain age, she will never develop the pacing habit.

More next time on Siku, Arki, the Glacier Run area, and Qannik of course.
Cute from any angle 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sleepy time at the Detroit Zoo


It was a quiet August afternoon when I dropped by the Arctic Ring of Life at the Detroit Zoo for another visit with retired circus bear Bärle and her daughter Talini. I was disappointed that Talini had decided to spend the afternoon in air-conditioned comfort inside, and I didn't get to see her at all.

I did get a quick glimpse of new handsome new house guest, 19 year old Aquila, visiting from the North Carolina Zoo in Asheville NC, who will be staying in Detroit for the next two years while his enclosure is being renovated. This magnificent 900 pound guy stood on his hind legs, looked around, and then disappeared for the rest of the afternoon, just as I was turning on my camera. He chose to nap in the cool inside quarters as well. Camera-shy maybe?

Lee hides in the shade of the cave.

11 year old Lee, a handsome young stud polar bear who arrived two years ago from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago to hopefully father a cub with Bärle, was relaxing outside. The zoo volunteer I spoke with said that the zoo now hopes that Bärle's daughter Talini, born November 22, 2004, will have cubs with Lee. Bärle, at age 27, is just too old to have another cub now.


Two years ago, Lee shared an enclosure with Bärle, but he only had eyes for Talini, who was in the other enclosure with Neil and Buzz. Lee could smell her. He paced and stood up, looking, straining to see her. This year, Lee and Talini sometimes share the same enclosure, and while Lee is crazy about Talini, she is lukewarm to him, said the zoo volunteer. But she's still young.

Two years ago I visited the Detroit Zoo and met Bärle, Lee and Talini for the first time. Also sharing this wonderful new bear habitat were house guests Neil and Buzz, who were waiting for their new digs at the Como Zoo in St. Paul Minnesota to be finished. Neil and Buzz adored Talini, and had a lot of fun playing together. Now Neil and Buzz have gone back to Minnesota, and Talini has Lee for a playmate/boyfriend.
Bärle and her wildflowers

Bärle waves goodbye as she rolls in the grass

Bärle seemed to enjoy napping in the wildflowers. I suspect that all those years in captivity gave her an appreciation for the wild open spaces and fresh air. She looks wonderful.

Bärle was rescued from a Circus in Puerto Rico in November, 2002. She had spent 17 years in a cage, with no place to play or swim. She was pear shaped from inactivity, so she had to get used to having room to move around. She gained weight quickly, and soon learned to swim. On November 22, 2004, Bärle gave birth to Talini. Bärle looks smaller than a grown female polar bear should be, probably because of bad nutrition as a circus bear for so many years.

When I visit the Detroit Zoo, I have to think the bears of the past who roamed the enclosure, especially of Talini's grandfather Norton, who died of a hernia age 23 last September in the Erie Zoo, and Talini's father Triton, who died of a twisted bowel at age 11 in 2008 in the Indianapolis Zoo. They were magnificent guys, gone too soon.

The Arctic Ring of Life, which opened in October of 2001, is an incredible habitat for bears, a $16 million exhibit for polar bears, seals and arctic foxes. The two areas, the tundra and the pack ice areas, both have buried heating and cooling coils. The highlight for visitors is the Frederick and Barbara Erb Polar Passage, a 70 foot long clear acrylic underwater tunnel to view swimming seals and bears in the 300,000 gallon tank from underneath, although the bears were not swimming during my recent visit.
Bärle two years ago, in the tundra area

Buzz, now back in Minnesota, swimming over the passage in 2009 

Friendly seal

The Frederick and Barbara Erb Polar Passage

Bärle now looks wonderful, with smooth white fur and round curves. She is enjoying her retirement in Detroit. I'll have to make a return trip to see Talini and a little more of Aquila. And of course the handsome Lee.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Crystal and Siku make a splash!

It's official. Young Siku, almost two years old, will be leaving the Toledo Zoo in a short time. This fall, Siku will make his home in the new Glacier Run habitat at the Louisville Zoo, where Qannik, the rescued little girl bear from Alaska, now lives. Here are some fun pictures of playful mom Crystal, and her son Siku, making a splash in the pool at the Toledo Zoo. This move will mean that the Toledo Zoo can have Marty, Nan and Crystal all sharing the habitat at the same time. And Siku can make friends with Qannik.


Siku plays with the barrel, and Crystal supervises.



Crystal and Barrel




Siki plays on his favorite ledge

Worn out, Siku takes a nap.