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!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Kulu's favorite things


Aurora and Kulu 

 I had hoped to visit the dozen new cubs born in Europe last spring, but then the Corona Virus came, and all travel came to a stand still. No trip to Europe.

But I have one cub close by. Here in the U.S., only one polar bear cub was born last season. Fortunately, he lives only a two hour drive from my house, and I have membership in the Columbus Zoo. 

During the Coronavirus crisis, the Columbus Zoo was closed for some months, like all the other zoos, and then there were limited timed tickets. I went to visit Kulu in July, and was amazed then at what a huge cub had grown into.

I went again the day after Halloween.  For November 1, I was able to get a timed ticket for the time the zoo would open, so I could spend all day if I wanted to.

When I visited in July, about a quarter of the visitors were wearing masks in the outdoor areas. Masks were not required, but recommended. On November 1, I estimated that 70 to 75 percent of the visitors to the polar bear area were masked up. I wore my mask the entire visit, and avoided anyone who wasn't. There was not a great deal of social distancing, as everyone wanted to crowd up next to the glass where the bears were playing. For much of the time, however, there were few visitors, sometimes no one at all in the entire viewing area. 

Kulu was sleeping when I arrived, at some distance from his mother Aurora, who was also taking a sun drenched nap on the big rock in the center. After a bit, Kulu woke up, climbed  to the top of the big rock, and continued his nap cuddled up next to his mom.

Kulu and his mom sleeping on the big rock

Eventually, Aurora woke and the two played together for awhile.

 Then Aurora climbed down, followed by her son. Kulu is 11 months old, and so big for his age.

Here's Aurora playing with the purple crazy egg.

Kulu plays by himself most of the time, and Aurora plays too, across the pool. She has her favorite toys, and acts like a cub herself.

A strip of green cloth occupied Kulu's attention for a good long time. He threw it into the air, wrapped it around himself, dragged it all over, attacked it, and flew it like a banner. He was having so much fun.  

Another favorite toy is the firehose cube. Sometimes he treats it like prey, stalking and sneaking up, then attacking. Sometimes he grabs it in his mouth, and swings his head wildly to throw it into the air, then dives in and retrieves it under water.

Kulu is like a baby in many ways, and likes to put things into his mouth to taste them, smell them. He loves leaves, and pick them out of the water to play with.

So the two of them spent their day playing in the sun, mostly separately, but then coming together for a little family fun. 

The slanted afternoon sunlight on an autumn day sometimes gives the bears' fur a lovely glow, and throws sparkles onto the water. It was nice to be in a zoo again, with my camera, enjoying the antics of a sweet polar bear cub.