Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Lee comfy in Columbus


Lee is getting comfortable at the Columbus Zoo. The girls, Anana and Aurora, are denned up for the season, so he has the whole place to himself. He prefers to sleep outside in his "man cave," rearranging the raffia bedding to suit himself.

It is Wildlights Season at the Columbus Zoo,
 with lots of lights, even during the day.

Lee's "man cave" and his scratching post

When he does spend time indoors, the keepers give him lots of cardboard boxes to arrange and rearrange in his indoor bedroom, because he loves to decorate. Cardboard would be a problem with the water filtration system of the pools, so he has to be happy with fluffy straw and raffia outside.

Interior Design by Lee

Lee weighs 1100 pounds now

He arrived about a year ago from the Denver Zoo, where he had been living with Cranbearry, although they were kept separate. In Denver, he was showing stereotypical behavior, that is pacing and repetitive movements. It is much better in Columbus, where he has wide open meadows and lots of space for roaming and swimming.

He is very fond of Aurora and Anana, but is making the best of it while they are denned up. He is also very attached to his keepers, and they are very fond of him as well.

His fur is looking great now that it has grown in

I visited earlier this week, and Lee had just had his weekly allergy shot. The keepers have trained him to back up against the bars so he can get the injection, while another keeper fed him watermelon and peanut butter.

Lee thinking about another nap
 He has suffered from multiple allergies, and needs the weekly injections to keep the itching at bay. He was scratching quite a bit on Monday, but his keepers said that he should be much better the next day. They tried to get him interested in playing with his toys, or swimming, but he was having a lazy day on Monday.

The keepers are used to dealing with allergies, as the late Nanuq had a severe allergy to grass, and they had to medicate him for that.

It feels good to scratch that itch

His "itching" grimace

He has his favorite scratching posts, a trunk of a tree that has lots of knobs sticking out. He sometimes rubs on stones too. 

Showing his beautiful teeth which he scratches

When he scratches with his paws, or rubs against something,  he makes funny biting faces, showing his teeth.

Scratching an itchy tummy
Lee has enjoyed his time with sisters Aurora and Anana. Each has produced cubs before, so chances are good we may have cubs again this year.

On his way to the scratching post
 Neither Lee, nor any of his siblings have produced cubs yet. Lee's mother was the late Aurora, and his father was the late Yukon, who, along with his twin Berlin, were the last polar bears born at the Cincinnati Zoo, in 1989.

Aurora and Yukon were parents of Anoki, now in Seneca Park Zoo Lee's twin sister Anana of the North Carolina Zoo, and Haley of the Memphis Zoo.

Lee loves his soft bedding
 Lee is descended on his mother's side from the Memphis Zoo's Bruno, and on his father's side from Olaf and Olga of the Omaha Zoo, and thus is related to many of the bears in Europe, such as all of Olinka's children and all of Freedom's children. Elvis was his cousin, and so is Ranzo.

Lee watches me

 Lee's keepers say that he weighs about 1100 pounds. His fur has grown in and is looking much better than when he arrived a year ago, all nice and white and fluffy. 

Lee blends in with his fluffy bedding, all carefully arranged
A little more scratching
Itchy ear
Lee's itchy allergies are much better with his weekly allergy shots

 I had visited Lee once before, in the summer of 2009, when he was in Detroit with retired rescued circus bear Bärle. He was much more interested in Bärle's young 4 year old daughter Talini who was across the way in another enclosure. Lee could see Talini, who was in with Neil and Buzz at the time, if he stood up. Lee was pacing, then standing, trying to impress Talini from a distance. Those were the days when I didn't have a good camera, so the photos are not the best, but nevertheless historic.

Lee in the grassy area at the Detroit Zoo Arctic Ring of Life in summer of 2009

Lee looking over at young Talini next door - 2009 in Detroit

Lee a decade ago, in Detroit

I am hopeful Lee will at last be a daddy, and we will have some cubs in the Columbus Zoo again.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Farewell to Nika

Nika, such a beauty

We lost Nika today. She spent most of her life in Karlruhe, where she had a good life, with sand and grass in which to roll, and good friends with whom to play. 

Today was her 19th birthday.


Some time ago, she injured her right back leg, and the wound would not heal. She would lick and chew on it, and made it worse, even though the zoo veterinarians did everything they could to bring her back to health. Recently the infection became much worse, and she had to be euthanized. 

Nika watches over a sleeping Larissa

She  and her twin brother Lloyd were born in Vienna to Olinka and the late Eric on November 27, 2000. Nika came to Karlsruhe when she was a little over a year old, and had lived there ever since. Nika's twin brother Lloyd went to live in Bremerhaven in Zoo am Meer.

Olinka and Erik went on to have many other cubs. Olinka lives in Rotterdam, and Erik died a few years ago.

Nika and Larissa

Nika and Lloyd descended from an American family of bears. Olinka's father was Omaha, son of Olaf and Olga of the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha Nebraska.

The three bears playing in the grassy area. Nika is in the center
For most of her time in Karlsruhe, she lived with Vitus, who is the same age as Nika, and Larissa, who is a decade older. Nika and Larissa never did have cubs. It was discovered in recent years that Vitus is sterile. 

The three bears having a stand-off. Nika is at left, leading the way

The three bears got along very well, sometimes having little play fights for fun. The two girls took naps together.

The three bears

Vitus and Larissa moved to Neumunster a couple of years ago, and Kap moved in with Nika. Now Kap is all alone again.

Larissa and Nika



She was a lovely bear, and I know her keepers are heartbroken. 

We will miss you, Nika.

The three bears playing Ring around the Rosy in the sandpit,
in the glory days. Nika is at left.