Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bam Bam keeps her cool

Pretty Bam Bam

We visited Bam Bam at the World Famous Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in the middle of a brutal heat wave. She has plenty of energy, even in 100 degree heat, but then she does spend a lot of her time in the pool.
Bam Bam loves her pool

Bam Bam loves to interact with her fans
Born in the Henry Doorly Zoo on November 29, 1987. twin sisters Bam Bam and Patches were the last cubs of the prolific and popular Olaf and Olga of the Omaha Zoo. In fact, I think they were the last cubs born at the zoo. During the seventies and eighties, Olaf and Olga had many cubs in the Omaha Zoo, eleven of which lived.

Patches and Bam Bam were together at the Omaha Zoo until Patches left for the Erie Zoo in December of 2007. Patches was moved to Erie as part of a trade, and a male bear was supposed to come to the Omaha Zoo, but I don't think that actually happened. I am pretty sure that Bam Bam has been alone since her sister left. She seems to be getting along just fine on her own, and loves to interact with the visitors. Alan Host, Senior Supervisor of Cats and Bears, said there are no plans to get another polar bear at this time.

24 year old Bam Bam weighs in about about 550 pounds.

Her official book name is Fanny, but she got the name Bam Bam because when she was younger she like to bang on the metal doors and make a racket to be let in or out. The keepers successfully worked with Bam Bam over the last few years to cut back on this noisy behavior, and while she doesn't do it anymore, she has kept the name.
Bam Bam has a heart shaped nose
Feeding time for the Omaha bears is at 11 a.m.. Before the food comes, Bam Bam is happy to swim and play with all her fans. She has a lovely 30,000 gallon pool and a waterfall in the Durham Family Bear Canyon, which opened in 1989 at a cost of $1.4 million. 
Bam Bam dives for her lunch

Her friends can view her from above, or wander down a trail to see her at eye level. A three level elevator can also make it easier for visitors to access the upper and lower levels of Bear Canyon.

She loves her celery

A yummy piece of fruit

Bam Bam stalks a floating melon
She seems to love cantaloupe melons, and. She also got various fruits and celery during feeding time, and had lots of fun swimming around and gathering her snacks, which are thrown by a keeper from above. She gets training three or more times a week, and her favorite training food is some delicious crunchy celery! Her favorite toy at the moment is a big red ball.
My mother Carol and Bam Bam study each other. This is the first time
 Carol had ever seen a polar bear in her 93 years.

I visited Bam Bam with my sister Lois, and my almost 94 year old mother, both of whom had never before seen a polar bear. My elderly mother was enthralled by the silly antics of Bam Bam, who gave her a face-to-face experience, in spite of the famous early July heat wave of 2012. Even with the incredible heat, the zoo was busy and crowded and Bam Bam was having a lot of fun.
Bam Bam is ready for an afternoon nap
Bam Bam spent the afternoon napping in her favorite spot in her enclosure, happy after an active morning and a big helping of healthy snacks.
The Henry Doorly Zoo has a roomy polar bear home with a great pool
Although the Bear Canyon is an outdoor exhibit, the Omaha Zoo has a great number of indoor, air-conditioned attractions to comfortably enjoy: the Lied Forest, gorilla house, the brand new Aquarium, the Butterfly House, the Desert Dome, the IMAX theatre and more. With the help of an $8 rental wheelchair and a big umbrella, our little group spent the whole day at the zoo. Much of this zoo is designed to be enjoyed year-round, no matter what the weather.

A shady spot on a hot day
Bam Bam plays in her waterfall. Goodbye.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Farewell, gentle Bärle


Circus bear Bärle did get her fairytale ending. And now she is at peace.

 After 17 years of being confined to a tiny dirty cage and being forced to perform tricks in a traveling Puerto Rican circus, she was rescued ten years ago and given the gift of spending happier days in a beautiful setting in the Detroit Zoo's Arctic Ring of Life area. She enjoyed the company of other bears, was given proper food, and ventured out onto real green green grass. Even more miraculously, she experienced the joys of motherhood with her darling cub Talini, now age 7. She enjoyed the affection of her many fans, zoo docents and caretakers.
Bärle enjoyed her final years in the Detroit Zoo

The former circus star's story came to an end yesterday, July 18, 2012, when Detroit Zoo vets found that Bärle had terminal cancer, and they made the decision to end her suffering. She had been acting poorly for about five days, even refusing to eat her favorite meal of sweet potatoes and chicken.
Bärle in July 2009, roaming around the lush vegetation in the green area of the Arctic Ring of Life,
 which is North America's largest polar bear exhibit

Bärle had been captured in Manitoba as a cub, and grew up in a small cage in the Suarez Brothers Circus. She and a number of other polar bears were rescued in November of 2002, including the famous Willie, now living at the Milwaukee County Zoo while his home in Asheboro NC is being upgraded and expanded. Willie is also an older bear, in his late 20s. With the loss of Bärle, Willie is the last of the rescued circus bears still alive.

When she arrived in Detroit back in 2002, Bärle was small and her muscles were not well developed, due to lack of exercise and poor diet. The Detroit Zookeepers had to teach her to swim at age 17. She was pear shaped from inactivity, so she had to get used to having room to move around. She gained weight quickly, and learned to be a polar bear. On November 22, 2004, Bärle gave birth to Talini, fathered by Triton, who died in 2008. Zoo staffers were hoping that she would have another cub with Lee, but that did not come to pass.
Bärle playing in the wildflowers in August, 2011

Bärle enjoys a summer afternoon in nature

My last vision of Bärle was a happy one, as she napped among the wildflowers on a lovely summer afternoon last August. She was a gentle spirit among bears, and she will be greatly missed.

Sweet Dreams,  Bärle