Saturday, December 5, 2020

Snow Lily has a party for her 36th birthday

Snow Lily. Photos by Michelle Rippey

Photos by Michelle Rippey

Thanks to photographer Michelle Rippey, who frequently visits Snow Lily in Milwaukee for giving permission to share her wonderful photos of the Birthday Bear.

It is rare for a polar bear to reach her 36th birthday. This year we have three such ladies: Katjuscha in Berlin Zoo in Germany on November 16, Snow Lily in the Milwaukee County Zoo on December 5, and Winnie in Uni Zoo in Sendai Japan on December 15. These three lady bears are the oldest in the world.

Katjuscha was born in Zoo Karlsruhe to Nadine and Willie. She has a younger sister, Antonia, the only dwarf bear in the world, who now lives in Gelsenkirchen Zoom in Germany and is 31 years old.

Snow Lily was born to Penny and Nicklee in Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester NY. With her mate Blizzard she had a cub, Tundra in 1991, but he died in 2017 in the Bronx Zoo. Snow Lilly has lived in Milwaukee since 2005. 

Winnie was the only cub of the legendary Debby and Skipper in Winnipeg Canada. Debby lived to be 42 years old, a record. Winnie was sent to Japan when she was just under 9 months old.


Snow Lily makes her grand entrance to the Birthday Party 

Snow Lilly enjoyed a little pre-birthday party recently. She is a very active bear, and loves to interact with visitors. She also likes to show off her treats and toys to visitors.

Some shrimp flavored treats . She was hoping for crab legs

Her treats were served on a little table and chair set

She later carried one of the chairs into her den

Frozen treats

Here she is showing off her frozen chunk to visitors 

Time for a swim. She is delighted

The Milwaukee County Zoo has a great underwater viewing area 

Shake it off

Snow Lily loves to play with balls. Sometimes basketball dribbling underwater

You might see Snow Lily spelled as Snow Lilly sometimes. Her name is spelled with one "l" by the zoo, and two in the studbook. Either way is fine with her.

Happy 36th birthday, Snow Lily. Maybe you will get crab legs today. Your favorite. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Anori and Luka part ways

Luka and Anori in Wuppertal 

It has been a busy week for nine year old Luka. 

Tuesday was Luka's birthday at Zoo Wuppertal in Germany, where he has lived with Anori for seven years.

On Wednesday, he climbed into his transport box, which had been put into his area a couple of weeks ago so he could get used to it.

Welcome to Project Polar at YWP 

Today, Luka finds himself in Yorkshire Wildlife Park across the English Channel, able to see and sniff his new companions, 7 year old Nobby and 3 year old Wee Hamish, separated by some small space and some bars. 

After a few days, when he adjusts to his roomy and grassy new environment, Luka will be introduced to the other two male bears. Hamish is a new arrival too, just come from Highlands Wildlife Park in Scotland a month ago. Hamish and Nobby already seem to be fast friends.

The meadows at YWP may still smell faintly of Pixel and Nissan, two other male bears who recently left for France. Luka's father Victor lived at YWP for many years, before his recent death. 

Luka and Anori getting friendly 

Luka and Anori

Luka and Anori on the stairs steps in Wuppertal. 

Luka and his twin sister Lynn were born December 1, 2011 in Ouwehands Zoo in Rhenen in the Netherlands. Their parents were wildborn Huggies and Victor, son of Churchill and Vienna.

Luka in the water

Anori on the steps

Anori was born in Wuppertal very late in that same polar bear birthday season, on January 4, 2012. Her parents were Victor's sister Vilma, and Lars, father of the famous Knut.

Luka in the underwater viewing area at Wuppertal 

Anori in front, Luka in back, in the Mother Child area

When Anori and Luka were nearing the age of two, Anori's mother Vilma moved back to Rostock, where Lars then lived. Young Anori needed a playmate, so Luka came from Ouwehands. The two of them grew up together.

Anori and Luka in the main enclosure, heading toward the diving platform

Ready to dive

Luka in the Mother Child area 

So for the past seven years, Anori and Luka have been playing, splashing, running and swimming together 

Luka grabs the crazy egg

Anori and Luka in the mother child area 

Luka on the platform, and there is a viewing area behind him

Luka and Anori with their toys

The polar bear enclosure at Wuppertal was built about a century ago, and at the time it was very forward thinking. A hundred years ago, most zoos kept polar bears in cages. Wuppertal was one of the first to embrace the revolutionary idea of  Hagenbeck's habitats without bars, where the animals can move about freely and naturally. The stylized enclosure was built of slabs of silvery white granite, featuring a large pool, stairs and diving platform. 

Luka on the bottom step

Luka and Anori in the pool 

While Wuppertal's ancient enclosure cannot compare to the new state of the art facilities of some of the other zoos, I have rarely seen happier bears than at Wuppertal. Innovative toys and puzzles give them lots to do and think about, and the keepers are always looking for new ideas for activities and enrichment. 

Luka and Anori always had lots of different toys, and they get creative

About ten years ago a cozy mother child enclosure was built onto the back of the living quarters, a sheltered area of soft surfaces and a shallow pool area in front of the viewing window. Anori is the only cub to have been raised there. Anori and Luka would swim in the big pool area and then run through the building and out the back to sleep or play or have a snack in the little garden, then back and forth again. All day long. 

Luka with his ring

Of course Anori and Luka have had each other too, and they became compatible friends, very good at sharing.


It is customary for keepers to go along for the trip and stay until the bear has adjusted to new people and environment. 

Luka and Anori, follow the leader

Facebook photos today show that Luka has arrived at Yorkshire Wildlife Park and already explored one of the grassy areas on his own. 

Luka says goodbye to Wuppertal 

He will find a very different kind of home at YWP, with four large bear enclosures with natural ponds, rolling grassy meadows and stone shelters. It is all very spacious and natural. There are even ducks and other birds to chase.

Anori with her toys

And where is Anori going? I thought maybe Rotterdam, which has two large enclosures, one for Olinka and one for Wolodja. There is probably room for one more. Karlsruhe has had three bears before. Maybe she could go there? We will just have to wait and see. Her birthday is coming up in a month. Will she celebrate again in Wuppertal, or be in her new home by then?

Monday, November 16, 2020

The beautiful Katjuscha is 36 today


It is rare for a polar bear to reach the age of 36, but Katjuscha of the Berlin Zoo is celebrating that milestone today. She is the oldest polar bear in a European zoo. I don't know of any polar bears in the world who are older. There is a lady bear in the Milwaukee County Zoo in the U.S., Snow Lily, who is two weeks younger than Katjuscha.

Katjuscha does have a younger sister, born in 1989, Antonia the famous dwarf polar bear who now lives in Gelsenkirchen. Their parents were mother Nadine of Karlsruhe, and father Willie, who lived in the Berlin Zoo but would come to Karlsruhe during breeding season to visit the girls. 

Most of these photos are from my last visit with Katjuscha, in May of 2019. She was active, roaming around her enclosure at the Berlin Zoo and having a fine time on a lovely Spring day. She often takes a swim, but she did not during my most recent visit. When I came back in the afternoon to check on her, she was sleeping.

My friend Ralph visited her in September, just two months ago, and reported that she spent much of her time swimming. Here is a link to his report in Knuti's Weekly. 

Kati does like to roam around and patrol her enclosure, check things out. She has some arthritis, but it doesn't stop her from being a very active senior bear.

Katjuscha tends to wander in and out of her door, and sometimes naps there. She has lived alone for a few years now, since the death of Tosca and then Nancy. She seems to like being on her own. Nancy and Tosca had always teamed up as best friends, and Katjuscha was left out anyway.

When I visited Berlin in 2014, Katjuscha invited me to a tea party at the enclosure, with bread rolls served daintily upon her paw.

Back in 2014, Tosca and Katjuscha's sister Nancy would play together, and even lick ears. Katjuscha was left on her own. She has always liked to sit in the door and watch the rest of the world go by.

Tosca, Katjuscha and Nancy in Berlin in 2014.

During my visit in 2015, Kati went into the water and played with a blue ball. She had a great time, just like a cub.

Kati gets a snack of some meat and fish. She does like her snacks. This was in 2015.

Happy Birthday Katjuscha!
 I hope you get some good snacks today!