|Aussie with Anana, a few years ago|
|Aussie relaxes in the grassy meadow of Great Bear Wilderness|
|Aussie stands lookout|
|Aussie loved his naps|
Over the years, Aussie and Arki became parents to Marty in 1996, Tiguak in 1999, Kinepak in 2000, Payton in 2003, and Hudson in 2006. Today, Marty lives in Toledo, Payton lives in Memphis and Hudson still lives at Brookfield. Tiguak and Kinepak grew up, but died in other zoos, sadly.
I visited Aussie several times, and the photos above are mine. However, my dear friend Kim Pruim is a devoted and frequent visitor of Brookfield, and kindly provided the photos below, taken over the years.
|Aussie in the old Bear Grotto at Brookfield - photo by Kim Pruim|
The outmoded bear grottoes at Brookfield were closed and the polar bears moved to the spacious and lush Great Bear Wilderness in 2010, where the bears enjoyed open spaces, grassy meadows, pools, waterfalls, and privacy if they so desired.
|Aussie - photo by Kim Pruim|
Arki retired from motherhood and moved to the Louisville Zoo in 2011, and that left just Aussie and Hudson. Then Female Anana joined them for a time, while her habitat in Buffalo was being rebuilt. Aussie and Anana had a complicated relationship, not always seeing eye to eye.
|Aussie at his 30th birthday party - photo by Kim Pruim|
Of their cubs, only Marty has produced offspring, but he has been prolific, making Aussie a grandfather to Aurora and Anana, Nikita, Siku, Suka and Sakari, and Hope. Aurora has produced three cubs in the Columbus Zoo: Nora, Nuniq and Neva, and Anana has produced one cub, Amelia Gray.
|Thoughtful Aussie - photo by Kim Pruim|
While it is wonderful that Aussie is responsible for so many cubs, one has to wonder where the mates will be for these bears, since most of the cubs under the age of 10 in this country come from Aussie and Arki. Only Luna and the two Alaskan cubs, Qannik and Kali, are not related to each other.
|Enrichment - photo by Kim Pruim|
Recently Nan, who is mother to one of Marty's cubs, came to Brookfield as a mate for Hudson. Aussie and Nan got along fairly well.
|Aussie chases Nan, just this past May - Photo by Kim Pruim|
My friend Kim has known Aussie since she was a baby. She visited Aussie often, and in the past few years, each time wondered if it would be the last time she would see him. She and another friend visited Aussie the day before he left us, not realizing the end was so near.
|Aussie sneers - photo by Kim Pruim|
Kim writes, "Aussie has been a part of my life since 1996, when I was a year old. When I met his last offspring Hudson for the first time in 2008, that's when I really began to appreciate Aussie (as well as other polar bears) more. Through the years, I have made many visits to the Brookfield Zoo to visit Aussie and to photograph him.
"A highlight for me was the one and only time I got to see him behind the scenes, back in 2012. I shared a brief one-on-one moment with him. I quietly called his name as I knelt down next to the mesh, and we looked into each others eyes. That was a sweet moment I'll never forget.
"With no knowledge of his arthritis worsening, I managed to see him the day before he was euthanized. Though it made his passing harder for me, I feel very lucky that is was among the last of his visitors. He was my favorite old man and Brookfield Zoo will not the same without him."
|Aussie daydreams - photo by Kim Pruim|
|Aussie reflection |
- Kim's last photo the day before he died
Photo by Kim Pruim