Thursday, August 16, 2012

Elvis the King of Gelsenkirchen ZOOM

As we pause to observe the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, it is time to visit his namesake, Elvis the Polar Bear.

This Elvis is alive and well and living in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Like the original Elvis, this hulking guy has a swagger and a sneer, and also calls Memphis Tennessee his hometown.
This Elvis loves his carrots. 
Like any popular celebrity, Elvis the Polar Bear was at the center of a scandal in his younger days! A love triangle of sorts.

Elvis was born in the Memphis Zoo, Memphis Tennessee, USA, in November of 1979, two years after the death of the original Elvis, and was named in honor of the late King. This cub's parents were Olga and Bruno.

When Elvis was a year old, he moved to Zoo Osnabrück in Germany, where he lived happily for many years with lady polar bear Sonja. They did produce cubs, but none survived.

Also part of the Osnabrück bear group were brown and black bears, in a strange arrangement, living together with the polar bears. Living in this bear commune were European Brown Bear sisters named Susi and Ossi.

After 24 years of living together, there was a surprise in January of 2004. Susi gave birth to twin cubs. Tips (the girl) and Taps (the boy) were Hybrids, half Polar Bear, half European Brown Bear. At first the birth of these hybrid cubs was something of a scandal and an embarrassment to the zoo, but public attitudes quickly shifted so that today Zoo Osnabrück is very proud of their rare and quite beautiful silvery bears. Many visitors come to Zoo Osnabrück just to see this unique accidental pair.

Tips and Taps have also become ambassadors of climate change awareness. Since climate change is causing more and more hybrid bears to appear in the wild, scientists are even more interested in studying Tips and Taps.

Elvis the Polar Bear gives us his best Elvis "sneer."

Elvis spends his days sleeping, playing with toys, and enjoying yummy snacks.

Elvis moved the Gelsenkirchen ZOOM in June of 2005. He is now living like a king in a luxurious environment in the Gelsenkirchen Zoo with a elderly lady friend, Fanny, who is one year older than Elvis. She also has a connection to USA bears. Fanny is the mother of Charly, born in 1995 in the Hamburg, Germany zoo. Charly has been living at Sea World in San Diego since 1997.
Elvis and Fanny are enjoying their sunset years in a very nice zoo, which is also home to young lovers Bill and Lara, as well as the cute and sassy little Antonia, also a remarkable little bear as she is about a third the size of a normal bear. She seemed to be normal when she was born, and was very bold and rude, but failed to grow at a normal rate. So anyone visiting Gelsenkirchen can enjoy watching five bears: amorous young bears, elderly bears, and a special and very cute little dwarf bear.

Bill and Lara enjoy a beautiful new home at Gelsenkirchen Zoom
 On the day I visited last year, Bill and Lara were swimming and walking and very active, but darling little Antonia spent the entire afternoon taking a nap.
Antonia the dwarf bear sleeps in her private enclosure at Gelsenkirchen Zoom
As offspring of Olga and Bruno in the Memphis Zoo, Elvis is great uncle to Aurora of the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY. Haley, one of Aurora's cubs, is now living in the Memphis Zoo, which is the birthplace of her Great Uncle Elvis. So visitors to the Memphis Zoo can still see a relative of Elvis the King (Polar Bear).

Elvis admires his reflection as he takes a drink.
Elvis is now 33 almost years old, quite elderly for a polar bear. Fanny is almost 34. They are doing very well for their age, and although they move more slowly than younger bears, they are still active in interested in life.