Thursday, June 25, 2020

Kulu is one big little guy


For polar bear fans, 2020 has been a disappointing year so far with zoo trips out of the question for so many months, and Europe not even a possibility. With so many cubs to potentially visit in Europe, and even Flocke's triplets in France, sadly all travel plans had ground to a halt. I hadn't been to a zoo since Qannik's birthday party in Louisville in January.

But there is one cub I have really been looking forward to meeting, and he is very close by. Kulu is the only cub in the United States, well, really the only cub in this hemisphere, in a zoo setting anyway.

Kulu and Aurora on the big rock

When would I get my chance to finally meet this little guy, who was born Thanksgiving Day in 2019?

Kulu's father Lee

I had gone up to Columbus in November of 2019, it seems so long ago, to see Lee, father of the cub.

By the time Kulu was six months old, the Columbus Zoo had been closed for three months. Kulu had gotten used to the outside area with no one to watch him but his mother and the keepers. The zoo finally announced they would open on June 12. I got my timed ticket for 10 a.m. on Friday, June 19. I would finally get to meet Kulu. 

I was disappointed that, although the zoo had told the public that masks were highly recommended, about 90 percent of the people were not wearing a mask or keeping their distance.  The zoo was keeping the attendance fairly low, and I had a KN-95 mask, so I felt fairly safe, but it still made me wary, and it was harder to get photos with so many people crowding to see darling Kulu.

Kulu bites his paw

Swimming Kulu 

Kulu with his Blue Ball 

Blue Bucket


Kulu watches everything

Kulu balancing on the logs

Kulu isn't a cute little tiny cub anymore. Well, he is still cute, but he's a roly poly strong little guy weighting 180 pounds (about 82 Kg) at not quite seven months of age.

Kulu is growing every day. He is such a big boy

He followed his mom Aurora around for awhile. Sometimes they would disappear into the private area on the left, and I think Aurora prefers to feed her cub without an audience.

Mother Aurora on the big rock pillar

When Mother Aurora decided to climb onto the big stone pillar over the diving pool for a nap, Kulu went off on his own, being very confident and independent. He played with his toys, especially a small red plastic carton. He also likes his blue ball, his red top, and his red block. I imagine his keepers change his toys out frequently to keep him amused.

Kulu chews

Kulu likes the smell ports under the stone pillar and the wooden dock too. The keepers can disperse interesting perfumes and other smells there to keep him interested.

Kulu at one of smell ports, wearing some seaweed

The cub also keeps an eye on the live trout. His mother is trying to teach him to catch the fish, and he dives in to try, but so far, has not been successful. Still, he tries.

There's Mother Aurora, and maybe a fish?

Looking for his red toy or a fish?

Splash! Kulu isn't so good at diving yet.

Trying for another fish.  And trying to improve his diving form.

He is not an adept diver. He usually just falls headfirst into the pool, but he does love swimming around, trying to catch the elusive fish. 

Mother Aurora strolls as Kulu plays

As Kulu plays, he keeps an eye on his mom, just checking to see that she is still there. Aurora is always aware of where her little cub is, even when she is napping.


Going for the Blue Ball

Kulu trying to pay equal attention to all his toys

Kulu loves to swim, spending most of his time in the water

Aurora is an experienced mother. She gave birth to her first cub Nora in 2015, a cub who was raised by keepers and went to another zoo before she was one year old. Nora is now at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City with her Aunt Hope, Aurora's little sister of the same age as Nora. 

In 2016, Aurora gave birth to twins, Neva and Nuniq, and her twin sister had Amelia Gray. The twin sisters and their families alternated days in the public viewing area, and elderly Daddy Nanuq came out at night. This time Aurora took great care of her cubs.

After old Nanuq passed away, and Neva and Amelia Gray moved to Maryland and young Nuniq moved to Madison Wisconsin, a new male bear arrived in Columbus to be a companion for twins Anana and Aurora. Lee was born in 1999 the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester NY. Lee's mother was Aurora, and his father was the late Yukon, twin brother of Berlin, born in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1989. Lee had moved around a bit, had been in Lincoln Park, Milwaukee, Detroit and Denver, and had never fathered any cubs before Kulu. His genes are especially valuable as his sisters Anoki and Hayley, and twin sister Anana (of North Carolina) have not produced cubs. He is a descendant of Olaf and Olga, through Shep. He is also descended from Bruno of the Memphis Zoo, so is related to many of the European polar bears.

The Columbus Zoo currently alternates having Aurora and her cub Kulu in the public exhibit on one day, and Lee and Anana on the next day. The schedule is subject to change. The pair not on public view has a spacious hidden enclosure with pool.

Kulu keeping his eye on everything

He is a curious cub

Kulu has a secret sheltered area under the big rock pillar where he can hide
and still watching everything, including his mom up top.

Little Kulu asks his mom to wake up
 and come into the water to play

A little wet after a dip in the pool. Shaking it off.

Aurora's grandma Arki (her father Marty's mother) loved lettuce sandwiches, and it seems that Aurora does too. Aurora gobbled down the bread and the Romaine lettuce. Kulu had some too. 

Aurora has some bread thrown into the water

Romaine Lettuce, a favorite

Like her late Grandma Arki, Aurora likes lettuce

Kulu wants some too

Kulu steals a few leaves

Yes, she loves her lettuce

Kulu loves his mom

Lettuce is good for a mask, too. We are supposed to wear masks.

It was such a treat to see Kulu and his playful antics. Mother Aurora was fun too. She loves to play and can be a silly girl.

The Columbus Zoo has a docent stationed in the polar bear viewing area, so I was glad to have someone to answer my questions.  I hope to get back to Columbus soon to see just how much Kulu has grown. He's the only cub I can go see for the time being, so he had better get used to my visits. 

Bye for now, Kulu 


  1. Dear Molly!
    What a wonderful article of your meeting with Kulu and Aurora! The little big man is a darling and I'm so glad he has an unique name so even me can remember it. :-) Your photos are fantastic and it was interesting to read information of Kulu's grandparents. Thank you so much for sharing this precious report!
    Hugs from Mervi

  2. Liebe Grüße aus dem Zoo Aalborg.