Saturday, July 27, 2019

Members Morning at the Cincinnati Zoo

Some Romaine Lettuce for Fiona at Members Morning
Once a year, the Cincinnati Zoo opens up early on a Summer Saturday for members only, with some special activities. This morning, from 8 to 10 .a.m., zoo members got to experience some extra wonderful fun activities given to the animals. It was a magical morning of enrichment.

Henry the Sumatran Orangutan got a watermelon
 for Members Morning

 It seemed that just about everyone got a treat.  Here is a look at Henry the Orangutan, Little One and Anana Polar Bears, the Red Pandas, Fiona and Bibi Hippos, and a few other zoo residents. 

Chester the Andean Bear had nuts inside of a puzzle feeder, a toy that makes the animals work for their food as they would in the wild.
It is a great form of enrichment.

How Henry shells peanuts

Henry the Sumatran Orangutan was given a big pile of nuts and fruits and greens on one side of the habitat, but a watermelon awaited his attention on the other side. Henry eats peanuts in the shell by extracting the nut and spitting out the shell.

How Henry eats oranges. He spits out the peel

Henry finds the watermelon
  His keepers had to call him over to check out the melon. 

All mine. Henry does not like to share. So he doesn't.

The White Handed Gibbons watch Henry feast

The White Handed Gibbons, who share life with Henry, were curious about the melon, but they kept their distance, hoping Henry might leave some scraps later. Not likely, says the keeper.

Henry breaks in to the melon 
 Henry finally gave the melon his attention, biting into it, then splitting it in half with his strong arms.

Bite size slices

Henry's smile

A summertime treat

He laid the pieces out in front of him like he was setting a table, then dove into the pieces with his mouth. The keeper said he would probably eat it all, even the rind, leaving nothing for the White Handed Gibbons, although I am sure they got their own enrichment.

Anana with a blue ball by the pool
 The polar bears got some treats too, some meaty ribs and some toys. Anana was interested in the meat, but Little One was too interested in Anana to pay attention.

Anana with a strip of meat

Little One is still showing courtship behavior, sniffing at her and being very affectionate, even though it is late July, long past breeding season.

Anana and Little One play fighting, a form of polar bear affection
 They swam together and had mock battles, they play fought. He followed her around like a lovesick puppy, letting her have all the treats.

Little One is still showing courtship behavior towards his sweetheart Anana

He sniffed at her back end and nuzzled her. 

"Luv Members" - Little One follows Anana everywhere
Members got to feel the love too, with the lovely banner hung over one of the windows of the polar bear pool area.

Fiona and Bibi wait for lettuce from their keeper

The keeper called the Nile Hippos over for their special treat today, yelling out "Bee! Come over here Bee!" Bibi and Fiona were given some crunchy Romaine Lettuce today, and they seemed to enjoy it.

Open wide, Bibi

Photos of the inside of Bibi's mouth

Daughter and Mother

The African Painted Dogs got some new toys
 and a roller that said

Elle the baby Gorilla enjoys the melting juice from frozen chunk of ice hanging in inside area of Gorilla World. It was made by pouring sweet treats and frozen water into a bucket and then freezing it.
 Several were hanging up today.

Even the White Lions, Gracious and her mom Prosperity,
 got some lovely ice disks to help them cool off

The Lions were sleeping when I visited. They had gotten some enrichment earlier, and this tube saying We Love Members was all that remained as the lions slumbered.

The Red Pandas enjoyed a new fire hose hammock

New toys for the Red Pandas

A map of the Cincinnati Zoo.
New Kangaroo exhibit coming in 2020

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Behind the Scenes in Copenhagen

Baby Imaq, begging for something from the kitchen

Some days are just magical. I experienced such a day last month in Copenhagen. I had made plans to meet my longtime polar bear friend Dorte at the Copenhagen Zoo to see Lynn and her cub Imaq. I had just been in Aalborg Zoo visiting Imaq's father Nord, and now I wanted to see the mom and baby.

Lynn and Imaq at the door to the old enclosure,
 looking in to the kitchen

Much to my surprise and delight on that Monday morning, Dorte, with the help of Aalborg polar bear keeper Frank, had arranged for me to have a very special experience. Dorte and I were met by Zaćo, one of the predator keepers, who took us past the new Great Panda exhibit, and around the back of The Arctic Ring, where I got to meet Lynn and Imaq up close.  

Noel with her breakfast

The keeper opened a gate to give me a close up look at longtime resident Noel, who was enjoying a nice breakfast of goodies piled high, in the large meadow enclosure of the Arctic Ring, which opened in 2013. 

Zaćo opened another gate and took me down an alley, showing me a pile of big blue plastic barrels given to the bears as enrichment. The barrels are donated by a local chocolate company, and when you remove the lids, the barrels still smell delightfully of chocolate.  The bears love playing with these big blue yummy smelling barrels.

Imaq gets a dose of delicious cod liver oil.

We continued down the alley to the older area, behind the historic bear enclosures, still used. Further on is the back area for the brown bears. We stopped at the back of the area being used for the polar bear cub and her mother.

Imaq's tongue, hard at work, getting that fish oil
Mette, another polar bear keeper,  was giving doses of  cod liver oil to six month old Imaq. The cub was slurping it right up.

Mette with a daily dose of fish oil for Imaq

 Imaq sucked it down from the dispenser and wanted more. 

Imaq loves her treats
  Mette handfed Imaq some kibble, and then Mom Lynn came along.

Mother Lynn lines up behind Imaq

This area where Lynn and Imaq were getting some treats leads to the outside enclosure. The bears were in constant motion, running back and forth between the two gates, into and out of the habitat. To the left is the soundproofed and insulated den where Imaq was born. There are cameras in the den so the keepers could monitor the mom and cub in the early days.

A little more kibble for Imaq

"Please, I want some more" says Imaq

 When Mette tired to give Mother Lynn her dose of cod liver oil, and Imaq threw a little fit, trying to get mom's tasty treat as well.  Finally, Mother Lynn got hers.

Mette fills the syringe with oil for Lynn

Some fish oil for Lynn. Imaq wants more.

Mette squirts the oil right into Lynn's mouth
The week of my visit, Imaq was being slowly introduced to the new area of The Arctic Ring, and four days later, she made the transition, However, when she was much smaller, the older bear pit was deemed more suitable for a young cub. For her safety, the water area was filled with a cushion of straw when Imaq was first introduced to the outside. Later the moat of the old enclosure was  filled with water, and the pool became Imaq's favorite playground.

The old enclosure is where Imaq has grown up. Shortly after my visit, she and her mom transitioned to the new grassy area of the Arctic Ring.

Imaq taking a flying leap in the pool

Then it was my turn to feed the cub. Zaćo cut a large fennel root in half for me to feed to Imaq.

Lynn and Imaq at the gate to the enclosure
I went through the kitchen area and to the gate which leads into the enclosure where Imaq was waiting for me.  Alas, there were no photographers there to capture the moment, except for me, and I was busy feeding fennel to a polar bear cub. The bars in this door are wider than in the alley access, and the fennel quickly went through. Imaq was excited to get a treat, but quickly dropped it and ran around to the alley door just to the left. But fennel is Mother Lynn's favorite, and she quickly came and got the pieces. It smells like licorice!

A piece of fennel on the ground, where Imaq dropped it.
 Lynn is ready to swoop in and take it.

I went back out to the gate in the alley with the other piece of fennel. Imaq sniffed at it, but Lynn came running and was happy to try to take the piece through the bars. However, the piece was too big, so I was stuffing the vegetable through the bars from my side. The mother polar bear had the fennel grasped between her teeth and she was pulling. There I was, my fingers just inches away from her huge teeth, and we worked together. This went on for a bit, as Lynn wrestled the root through the bars, holding it tightly in her jaws. She really wanted it, and finally, she wiggled it through.  Success! 

To give you an idea of how the back space is arranged, the photo above shows the bears waiting at the gate looking into the kitchen area. It is to the left of the area in the next photo showing Mette putting out some treats. The bears can run inside to the right, and back to the gate on the alley.

Lynn and Imaq watching activities in the kitchen

The bears are locked inside for a moment, while Mette puts out some treats and a new roller toy

Imaq with the new toy.

When The Arctic Ring was new back in 2013, there were two adult polar bears, Noel and Ivan/Boris, living in Copenhagen. It was intended then that the large single enclosure would replace the old bear pit. Ivan/Boris liked it well enough, but Noel did not. She much preferred the old habitat so for much of the time, Noel stayed where she was comfortable. Only recently has Noel come to like the new enclosure. 

Here is my 2013 photo of Noel swimming in the old enclosure.
The Arctic Ring had just opened, but she did not like the new space.
The new Arctic Ring cannot be divided, so when polar bears have to be separated, as when Lynn had her cub, the old area has to be used. I think the Arctic Ring enclosure is rather awkward for visitors, with long blank cement walls, and narrow viewing windows. You have to go inside down a long ramp to see the underwater swimming view window and the tube, and it is quite a hike around from the new Arctic Ring to see what is going on in the old enclosure.

My photo of Ivan/Boris in 2013, in the underwater viewing tube.
Soon visitors can see Imaq swimming here.
 There is so much walking involved, and it is a long way around from the new Arctic Ring to the old enclosure. 

Zaćo told me that in all the years of Noel living with a male bear, first Ivan and now Nord, she has never shown signs of pregnancy. Although she would sometimes den up, there were never any cubs and it is accepted that there never will be any cubs from Noel, even though she is not quite sixteen years old. Noel was born in Italy, and is the older sister of Giovanna of Munich, who is the mother of Nela,  Nobby and Quintana.

Lynn, the daughter of Huggies and Victor in Ouwenhands Zoo in the Netherlands, is not quite eight years old and Imaq is her first cub. Nord arrived from Moscow, and began courting both ladies. Even though Lynn only mated with Nord a couple of times, she now has this beautiful cub. To make more room for the Copenhagen ladies, Nord has gone to live with Malik in Aalborg, although there may be plans for him to return to Copenhagen.

Copenhagen Zoo has not had a polar bear cub in decades, so everyone was excited when Imaq was born. Polar bear keeper Zaćo told me he was especially looking forward to the special day when Imaq would be taken out of the den to be examined and weighed, get DNA samples taken, get chipped, and of course pose for that all important photo, but by the time those in charge of making the decision gave the green light, Imaq was four months old and rather dangerous, so when Zaćo held the precious cub, he had to wrestle with her to keep his face from getting scratched or bitten by this very strong, very unhappy cub, so there was no photo. 

My friend Dorte, on the right, talks with the keepers. Zaćo is on the left.
Zaćo also said that they have adopted the method of keeping the doors open for the bears, so they can be inside or outside as they choose. This makes for happier bears and less stereotypical behavior. 

Lynn and Imaq at the door, with the piece of fennel
It was very exciting to hear first hand stories and talk about polar bear enrichment with the keepers. It was a day I will not soon forget. Thank you, Dorte.

Lynn and Imaq watch the activities in the kitchen area.
They know there will be something good soon.

Imaq watches everything, She is very curious

Lynn and Imaq

This is what I saw when I brought the fennel over to little Imaq.
 I was so lucky to get that experience.