|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 with a daily dose of fish oil for Imaq|
Imaq sucked it down from the dispenser and wanted more.
|Imaq loves her treats|
|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|
|Some fish oil for Lynn. Imaq wants more.|
|Mette squirts the oil right into Lynn's mouth|
|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|
|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.
|My photo of Ivan/Boris in 2013, in the underwater viewing tube.|
Soon visitors can see Imaq swimming here.
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.|
|Lynn and Imaq at the door, with the piece of fennel|
|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.