Saturday, October 14, 2017

Young Lovebirds at the Buffalo Zoo

Sakari in his great new home

Luna, born and raised at the Buffalo Zoo

Luna and Sakari, the young polar bear couple at the Buffalo Zoo, had very different starts in life. And now they are together in the brand new Arctic Edge exhibit, and seem very excited about each other.

Luna from the backside, Sakari across the way,
 in the large new polar bear home at the Buffalo Zoo

Both will be five years old in November.

Luna at the Arctic Edge pool
 Luna was born in secret at the Buffalo Zoo. Her mother Anana was not interested in taking care of her new daughter, so one of the keepers took the newborn cub home to bottle feed her and raise her secretly.

Luna is very round and fluffy, like her mother Anana

Shortly before Luna's birth, her father Nanuq left the Buffalo Zoo to live at the Columbus Zoo. Soon after Luna's birth, Anana was shipped off to Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. It seemed as if there were no polar bears left at the Buffalo Zoo, just when the zoo was beginning its push to tear down the old bear pits built in the 1890s and build a new $14 million 35,000 square foot state of the art polar bear home called Arctic Edge.

One of the old 1890s Buffalo Zoo bear pits in a photo from 2013.
 They were torn down and replaced with the magnificent Arctic Edge.

But then surprise! The snowy little cub Luna made her public debut in early March of 2013, along with a campaign called "Keep Our Bears in Buffalo" to raise funds for the Arctic Edge. As a cub, her needs were simple. She didn't need a regular polar bear enclosure. She romped in the snow and played with toys as her keepers kept an eye on her. She was a big hit with the public as she grew and thrived.

Luna as a cub
Luna, so named because she was born under a full moon, was one of only three cubs born in American zoos that year. The other two were twins Suka and Sakari, born in Toledo.
Luna and Kali playing in Buffalo

In May, Luna was joined by a rescued orphaned cub from Alaska named Kali. Luna had now had a real play mate! She and Kali lived together in a small enclosure near the zebras. They had a pool and lots of toys. People were lined up to see this cute little pair. As they grew, the pair needed more space and the new polar bear habitat at the Buffalo Zoo was not even started yet, so the cubs were moved to one of the tiger enclosures, where they alternated with the tigers, day and night. Construction on Arctic Edge started in March of 2014.

Luna loves the mud pile by her pool
 In the summer of 2015, Kali moved to a new polar bear habitat at the St. Louis Zoo. Soon after, Luna's mother Anana returned from Chicago, just in time for the opening of the Arctic Edge in September of 2015, where she stayed until November of 2016. Anana is now living at the Cincinnati Zoo. Although she has lived in many different habitats at the Buffalo Zoo, Luna has never left the care of the Buffalo Zoo staff.

Entrance to the Arctic Edge, home of polar bears, American Bald Eagles, Arctic Foxes and an elusive Lynx.

Fluffy Luna

There are plenty of landscaping features in the polar bear home to make life interesting

Luna on a rock

Luna between the rocks
 Sakari has a very different story. He and his sister Suka were born to an experienced mother, Crystal, at the Toledo Zoo. She took very good care of her cubs, and they had each other to play with too.

Crystal with Suka and Sakari

Suka and Sakari as little cubs

Sakari and Suka in Toledo, ready to leave home
When they were nearly two years old, the twins moved to the Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they shared the habitat with good natured brothers Neil and Buzz. In the summer of 2015, Suka and Sakari  moved to the brand new large and grassy Arctic Passage at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison Wisconsin. 

Suka and Sakari in Madison
Brother Sakari and Sister Suka had much fun playing and swimming. Sakari especially was growing up fast, is is a very big boy now. Last November, on the same day that Luna's mother moved to Cincinnati, Berit, the female bear in Cincinnati, moved up to Wisconsin to be Suka's companion, and Sakari moved to Buffalo to be with Luna.

Sakari and his stick
 The young bears seemed to hit it off right away. While they usually play apart, very often they interact and play. Here is a video of Sakari and Luna playing in the water in one of their huge saltwater pools. 

Luna enjoys it up to a point, and then she runs away.

There is  a giant picture window

Sakari has lots of room to roam

 The Arctic Edge has two large grassy areas with varied landscape, and a large saltwater pool in each.  At this time, both bears have access to both places, which are connected by tunnels with glass walls so we can see them as they go from one side to another. If cubs come along, the enclosures can be separated easily by closing the tunnels. Visitors enjoy the huge windows on the spacious bear yards.
A view of the underground connecting tunnels

Luna enters the underground tunnel connecting the two habitats
So for now, Luna and Sakari are just enjoying their fabulous home and each other. They are young. There is plenty of time to have cubs.

Sakari and Luna play in the water

Luna enjoys playing with the children through the glass too. The kids love it!


Sakari shaking it off!

Stepping over the log is good exercise for Sakari

A favorite stick for Sakari

The best toys are simple

More fun with the stick

Sakari roaming around

Friday, October 13, 2017

Water fun with Amelia Gray and her mom

Amelia Gray underwater

I stopped in for a quick visit with Anana and her 10 month old daughter Amelia Gray at the Columbus Zoo on September 20. Anana's sister Aurora has twins, Nuniq and Neva, and the two families rotate days in the public enclosure. These are the only cubs born in a US zoo this year. The family which behind the scenes still has a roomy, private outside enclosure with a pool.

Kisses for Mother Anana

Anana and Amelia
 On the day I was passing through, it happened to be Amelia Gray's day to be in the public eye.

Amelia is a happy little cub
 I was told that She weighed 250 pounds. Her cousin/brother Nuniq weighed 308 pounds, and Nuniq's sister Neva is a little one, only 200 pounds at nearly 10 months.

Amelia Gray paddles by

The underwater viewing area at the Columbus Zoo is amazing, and Amelia seems to know she is showing off for her fans.

She is aware of the children watching her

Sassy Amelia Gray

Up, up, up for Amelia

Amelia was busy chasing fish, and I was told that she actually caught one that morning.

Amelia playing with mom's favorite barrel

Resting for a moment

Amelia with her mom

Amelia often plays on her own, with her mother watching at a distance.
She is very independent.

Amelia Gray is named for the gray patch on her shoulder,
 which I have not noticed

Mom Anana loves the big blue barrel and she has discovered that rubbing her mouth on it makes loud noises, and she loves that. It is also fun to jump on the barrel. Amelia just watches her mother play sometimes.

Click on link for video of the Big Blue Barrel

Anana playing music on the big blue barrel. See video above

Amelia is quite aware of her visitors, and often swims over to say hello.

Saying hi!
Looking for a playmate!