Thursday, May 28, 2015

Polar bear paradise at Henry Vilas Zoo

The happy new residents of the brand new Arctic Passage, at Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison Wisconsin. Suka roams, while Sakari chews on one of the logs.

Suka and Sakari welcomed visitors to their brand new home, Arctic Passage, at Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison Wisconsin over the Memorial Day weekend. I visited on Monday, May 25.

A view of the old polar bear grotto, in a photo taken in June, 2013. The project broke ground in March of 2014. The new Arctic Passage is in the same area, but  at 1.7 acre, is much, much larger. Photo by Jeff Merrow.

A map of the $9.13 million Arctic Passage project.
 There is reference to an overlook to be added later, at top left. The area is home to polar bears, grizzly bears and three harbor seals.

Suka walks, and Sakari thinks about chewing some more bark off that branch. The three windows you see are in the cafeteria,
 so you can watch the bears while you enjoy lunch.

Suka and Sakari, now 2 ½ years old, were born at the Toledo Zoo to Crystal and Marty on November 21, 2012. Last September, the twins moved to Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they had an enclosure all to themselves. The other two polar bears at Como, Neil and Buzz, lived next door.

Sakari swims in the big diving pool, While Suka takes one of her long walks. This photo was taken from the central viewing area between the two enclosures.
This past Saturday, May 23, was the grand opening of the new Arctic Passage at Henry Vilas, a wonderful little free zoo in Madison.

One comment I heard over and over was how much nicer this enclosure was for the bears than the ancient and much smaller grotto.

The polar bear cubs seemed to be having a wonderful time, enjoying the deep pool and the rolling grassy meadow they now call home.

Suka and her brother Sakari will live at Henry Vilas for several years, while they grow up. They are still just playful cubs.

One of the three panoramic windows in the cafeteria.

As you approach Arctic Passage, the first thing you see is the restaurant. Straight ahead through the doors are the three big windows to view the meadow from inside. To the right is another window to see the lower corner of the meadow. There is also a den with  two viewing windows to peek inside.

One of two windows to see the den

Walking toward the central viewing area, you can stop and see the underwater action in the 46,500 gallon pool from two levels, if anyone is swimming. Arctic Passage has many interactive educational features too, about the environment and endangered animals such as polar bears.

And here we have a swimmer, and fans to watch and take photos


The underwater viewing window,
as seen from the central viewing window.

Suka wonders who is that pretty bear in the water

Suka and Sakari in the lush grass.

Suka by the sunning rock in the big pool.

Sakari chomps some bark

Suka finds a snack

Sakari really loves rolling around on the grass.

Walking toward the central viewing area. There is a "problem bear relocation trap" that children can climb into, lower right. The polar bears are in the area to the left, the grizzlies to the right.

A view of the underwater viewing area, taken from the bridge by the bison

A training and demonstration area runs along the back wall between the two enclosures, so keepers can educate visitors about how they care for the bears.

A view of the right hand enclosure, through the central viewing window.The Grizzly Bear sisters Ash and Lexi seem to enjoy their new home.

A view of the right hand enclosure through the pool viewing window.
 That is the edge of the pool to the right.

A view from the lower window.
 3 year old sisters Ash and Lexi enjoy having so much space.

The pool in the right hand enclosure.
 The grizzlies have a running stream that sometimes has live fish to catch.

The Grizzly Sisters Ash and Lexi really enjoy their new home, and the visitors find them to be very entertaining.

Something I have not seen before, a retired research vehicle - a Tundra Buggy -  sponsored by Polar Bears International is on display at Arctic Passage.

Sakari and Suki wait by the door. They go inside at 4 p.m. So come early.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Springtime cub tour of Europe

I saw six of the seven cubs on my springtime tour of polar bear cubs in Europe. Here is a little look at the families I met.

Hope, daughter of Flocke and Rasputin, at Marineland, Antibes, France


Tiny Hope is the new princess at Marineland in Antibes, France. She is the daughter of Flocke and Raspi, and was born November 26, 2014.

She is a tiny little ball of energy, always playing and swimming and running. She is a lot like her father Raspi.

Hope and her mirror toy

Hope in the ice cave

Hope finds a funny stick

Flocke and her daughter Hope

Freedom's twins

The lively cubs live in Ouwehands Dierenpark in Rhenen, Netherlands. Their father Victor now lives in England. Grandmother Huggies has recently joined her daughter Freedom and her grandchildren in the big enclosure. I am pretty sure the twins are a boy and a girl. They have no names yet. They were born November 22, 2014. You can watch them on webcam, daily.

Freedom and her cubs at Ouwehands Dyrepark in the Netherlands

Freedom plays and the cubs watch. My guess is a boy (left) and a girl (center)

Freedom and her cubs

Freedom and her cubs

Olinka's twins

In Rotterdam Zoo (Diergaarde Blijdorp) you will find Olinka and her two children, born December 2, 2014. Their father Eric died in February, much too young. The twins make good use of the tremendous diving pool at the zoo. I think we have a boy and a girl here too, but it is only my guess. The have no names yet.

Cubs in Rotterdam Zoo

Olinka nurses her cubs

Little boy and little girl in Rotterdam?

Rotterdam Zoo has a tremendous diving pool

Mama Olinka gets some love

Mama Olinka and the cubs

Olinka and one of her twins


Vera and Felix have a lovely daughter named Charlotte, in the Nuremburg Tiergarten. Father Felix has moved to Wilhelma in Stuttgart, so Charlotte and Mother Vera have the use of both large enclosures. Charlotte is quite round, and loves to eat. She is the sister of the famous Flocke, and also Gregor and Aleut. She was born November 21, 2014.

Charlotte of Nuremburg Tiergarten

Charlotte and her mother Vera

Like mother, like daughter. Charlotte and Vera

Charlotte and her crazy egg

Charlotte gets some lunch
I will have separate reports on these cubs as time goes on. This is just a sneak peak.

Unfortunately, because of the DB rail strike while I was in Germany, I was unable to go to Rostock to see Fiete, who was born December 3, 2014. I will see him and his mother Vilma on my next visit.