Saturday, April 24, 2021

Update: Anana's death was from natural causes

Anana in Brookfield Zoo, Chicago

The news of the tragic death of Anana at the Detroit Zoo on February 8, just a little over two months ago was all the more heartbreaking to think that another much loved bear, Nuka, had killed her during attempted breeding. Anana was adored by zoo visitors from the Brookfield Zoo, Buffalo Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo, and her final home at the Detroit Zoo.

It is a relief to know the truth now, with news of the results of the autopsy.

An independent commission of experts has studied what led to Anana's death, and their results were shared this week with Detroit Zoo members through an email. 

Anana in Cincinnati

The following was sent out in an email to the Detroit Zoo members this week from the Detroit Zoological Society.

DZS recently completed an in-depth review into Anana’s death and, working with veterinary pathologists at Michigan State University, discovered that she died from advanced heart disease. She was not killed by male polar bear Nuka, as was originally believed. The DZS’s Animal Health External Review Panel, a group of experts in veterinary and human health, endorsed this conclusion.
Analysis of Anana’s heart tissues showed that she experienced acute heart failure or a fatal arrhythmia before or during breeding attempts. It was impossible to know that she had a cardiac condition called multifocal myocardial fibrosis, as she showed no clinical signs and a 2020 medical examination noted no abnormalities in her heart function. Wounds on Anana likely resulted from Nuka holding her with his teeth, as is typical during polar bear breeding. He was also observed moving her around the habitat after she became unresponsive, possibly because he was confused by her behavior.
While DZS continues to mourn Anana’s loss, the polar bear staff is focused on caring for Nuka, as well as female Suka and her 6-month-old cubs. Laerke (the cub being reared by staff) is living in the polar bears’ building, but is separated from the other bears while she gets to know them from a distance. Suka and Astra (the cub she is raising in the maternity den) will soon be exploring the Arctic Ring of Life’s Tundra habitat.


From the start, Nuka was presumed guilty, but now has been found innocent of causing Anana's death. It sounds like the wounds were inflicted upon her face and neck by Nuka's efforts to wake Anana up after her heart failure.

Nuka is the father of the Suka's twins and we will be able to see these cubs, one raised by their mother Suka and the other by keepers, in the coming weeks at the Detroit Zoo.  A shadow over the happy events surrounding the new cubs has been lifted with the news that Anana's death was from natural causes. 

Anana was born at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City on December 12, 2000. The petite lady bear, weighing in at only 450 pounds, had one daughter, 8 year old Luna, now living in the Buffalo Zoo with Suka's brother Sakari. Anana died of heart failure in Detroit on February 8, 2021.

Nuka, father of the cubs

Suka, mother of twins, in Detroit

Saturday, March 27, 2021

A final farewell to Little One


One of my favorite photos of Little One.
He was stealing Berit's heart during Valentine Enrichment back in 2015.

Little One

Such sad news today, from the Cincinnati Zoo. Little One was euthanized this morning, suffering from renal failure. At age 31, he was the oldest male polar bear in the country. He was active up until his final few days, when he seemed to lose interest in his activities and his food.

He was born in Cleveland December 13, 1989, and came to the Cincinnati Zoo in 2007.

His mother was Snowball and his father was Nauyet. Little One's brother Blizzard, born in 1984, was the mate of Snow Lily, and the father of the late Tundra. He died in 2006.

His only living relative is a sister, 29 year old Satuki in Asahiyama Zoo in Hokkaido Japan.

Little One has enjoyed great companionship over the years, first with Rizzo and Berit, and then with the lovely little Anana.

He was a popular guy at the zoo, with a great many fans who will miss him terribly.

Since Cincinnati is my local zoo, I have visited Little One many times over the years, and have put together a little photo gallery in remembrance of the good times.

Little One enjoyed his enrichment snacks, here a little watermelon.

Berit, now in Wisconsin, and Little One 

Anana, now also gone just in February, and Little One

Little One and Anana in 2018

Little One was very fluffy, and had lots of fur on his feet

Little One on his 31st birthday, last December 13 

In the days when we had three polar bears in the Cincinnati Zoo.
Little One, Rizzo and Berit

Little One and Rizzo in 2012

Rizzo and Little One in 2012

Little One liked his toys at times, 
 especially if someone else wanted to play with them.

Little One peeking through the gate between enclosures

The last time I saw Little One, just last month. It was February 23.
He was out and about and seemed fine.

Rest in Peace, Little One. You were well loved. Now there are no polar bears at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Friday, February 26, 2021

New polar bear cubs of 20/21

The Russian twins - photo by Gelendzhik Safari Park

Today, February 27, 2021, is International Polar Bear Day. It's a great time to take a look at the cubs born this past winter in zoos, since they most likely have all been announced by now. We are celebrating the arrival of nine little ones, including two sets of twins. Three of the new cubs are being raised by keepers.

Almost all the births are to first time mothers. Sesi has successfully raised one cub before, and Suka had given birth several times, but the cubs died within days. The other new moms,  Shilka, Yuki, Ewa and Kometa, now each have their first cub to raise. Seryozhka in Russia is letting the keepers do the mothering job for her twins. 

In Russia, there are three polar bear cubs, including the twins being raised by keepers. One of the fathers, Aion was born in the wilderness. The mother of the twins, Seryozhka, was also a wild orphan, so these are especially welcome fresh genes.

In Japan, two zoos each welcome a cub. This is the first time in a several years since Japan has had cubs, maybe since Lira was born in 2014. 

In Europe, we have one cub in Sweden and another in France.

The only cubs born in the U.S. this year are in Detroit, twins with one being raised by keepers.

Two of the new mothers are rather senior to be having a first cub. Ewa in Sweden has just turned 15 years old. And Yuki in Japan has just turned 21 years old.  

Detroit - November 17

It's twins for 8 year old Suka and 16 year old Nuka in the Arctic Ring of Life in the Detroit Zoo, born November 17, 2020.

Suka is taking good care of one cub, and the other, a girl, is being raised by keepers. When the cubs were a few days old, the keepers, who were watching by den-cam, noticed that one of the cubs was weaker and having trouble, so they separated the family, and swooped in to rescue the little girl. She is doing well, according to reports and photos. The gender of the other cub, still with Mother Suka, is not known. 

Suka and her twin brother Sakari are offspring of Marty and Belgium-born Crystal of the Toledo Zoo. Suka is from the dominant polar bear family in U.S. zoos.

Nuka and his twin brother Koda were born in the Denver Zoo. Their parents were Voda and Kavek. Nuka's genes are rare. He is one of only three male bears alive who have produced cubs in the U.S. zoos, the other two being Suka's father Marty, and Lee.

Suka had given birth the past two years, but the cubs did not live more than a few days. This time, both cubs are doing great. 

Here's Suka's daughter, who is being raised by keepers. Photo by Detroit Zoological Society

Mulhouse, France - November 22

A daughter was born November 22, 2020, to 10 year old Sesi and  10 year old Vicks in Mulhouse France. It was announced this week that her name is Kara.

Vicks and Sesi are already parents of a 4 year old daughter Nanuq, who now lives in Munich. Sesi's great grandmother CW was born in Memphis Tennessee. Vick's grandfather Omaha was born at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska.

Baby Kara and her mother Sesi in Mulhouse, France,
on Kara's first outing this week. Photo published by Mulhouse Zoo.

Osaka, Japan - November 25

November 25, Tennoji Zoo in Osaka, twins were born, with one surviving. Parents are 16 year old Gogo and 7 year old Shilka (Icchan). This is Shilka's first cub. Gogo is the father of six year old Momo (Peach), now in Hamamatsu, Japan.

Shilka was born in Novosibirsk, Russia, the daughter of Gerda and Krassin. Gerda is the daughter of famous Moscow couple Simona and Vrangel. Their other children include Flocke's mother Vera, as well as Milana, Zefirka, Wolodja, and Nord. 

Gogo was born in Perm, to parents Anderma and Yukon. 

Gelendzhik Russia - late November

In late November, twins were born in Gelendzhik Safari Park in Russia, and are being raised by four keepers, all women. The father is 18 year old Commander Sedov, son of Uslada and Menshikov of St. Petersburg. These are his first cubs. The mother is 7 year old Seryozhka (Seleska), who was an orphaned cub herself.

Seleska gave birth outside the den, then went back inside, abandoning the newborns and showing no interest in taking care of them. The keepers took over, and cared for the twins, a girl and a boy. The twins were introduced to the public this week, as the keepers supervised their play inside a glass enclosure, with the cubs' parents looking in from one direction, and the adoring public from the other side.  

The twins in a holiday pose - photo by Gelendzhik Safari Park

Orsa Sweden - December 13

A long awaited birth in Orsa Bear Park in Sweden came on December 3, when 15 year old Ewa brought forth her first cub, fathered by 13 year old Wilbär.

Ewa is one of Huggies and Victor's triplets, born in 2005 in Ouwehands Zoo in the Netherlands. The other two triplets are Henk, who has fathered three sets of twins in Nuenen, the Netherlands, and Jelle, who is the father of two cubs in St. Felicien in Canada, with two different mothers.   

Wilbär is the only cub from the union of the famous couple from Stuttgart, Germany: Anton and Corinna. 

Akita Japan - December 26

On December 26,  21 year old Yuki and 17 year old Gota produced a cub in Oga Aquarium, Akita Japan. This is a first cub for Yuki. Gota is the father of Milk, born in 2012.

Yuki was born in Palic, Serbia, to father Bjorn-Heinrich and Mother Simba. Bjorn-Heinrich's parents were Aika and Gorki of Tierpark Berlin, which makes Yuki's father the brother of Eric (father of all of Olinka's cubs, and also Felix, father of Flocke, Gregor and Aleut, Charlotte, and Milak). 

Gota is the son of famous Moscow polar bear parents Murma and Untai, which makes him the brother of Rasputin, Kap, Boris/Ivan, Tonja and others. 

Rostov-on-Don Russia - December 27

8 year old Kometa and 11 year old Aion became parents on December 27, 2020 at Rostov-on-Don in Russia. It is a first cub for both of them.

Aion was born in the wilderness on the Chukchi Sea, found as a young cub near the village of Aion and taken to the Moscow Zoo.

Kometa and her twin brother Nanuq were born in Zoo Brno in the Czech Republic to parents Cora and Umka. Nanuq is in  Ukraine and has a daughter. Kometa's mother Cora is daughter of Uslada and Menshikov of St. Petersburg.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Mother Olinka at rest now

                                                        Olinka and one of her cubs 

Olinka was a patient mother, and that quality served her well in raising eight cubs. 

Sizzel and Todz, with mother Olinka

At age 28, which is fairly senior age for a lady polar bear, she was diagnosed with an advanced liver tumor, and possibly kidney involvement, while under anesthetic on Tuesday, February 9, and in light of how unwell she had been lately, it was decided to not wake her.

She had lived at Diergaarde Blijdorp in Rotterdam since 2010, where she lived with Eric, father of all her cubs, until his death in 2015. 

Lunchtime in Rotterdam

Olinka was born November 21, 1992 in Cologne, Germany, the daughter of Olga and an American born male named Omaha.

I remember the first polar bears I ever saw, when I used to take my kids to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha Nebraska, many times in 1980-83. At that time, Olaf and Olga had had a cub, named Omaha, born just after my son was born. Omaha grew up and was sent off to Europe. That cub was Olinka's father. Olinka was the only cub he fathered.

Young Olinka and her mother Olga moved to Vienna, where they met Eric. He would father two cubs with Olga, and eight with Olinka.

 There in Vienna, Olinka gave birth to twins Lloyd and Nika in 2000. In 2001, Olinka's mother Olga gave birth to Felix and Nord, so to make room in Vienna, in early 2002, Nika moved to Karlsruhe, and Olinka and young Lloyd moved to Bremerhaven, where Lloyd still lives.

Then back to Vienna, where Lara was born in 2004. Both Olinka and young Lara moved to Gelsenkirchen in 2005,  where they stayed for a year. Then back to Vienna again, leaving Lara in Gelsenkirchen.  Twins Arktos and Nanuq were born in 2007 in Vienna. Then in 2010 Olinka made her final move to Rotterdam, where she gave birth to Vicks at the end of the year. In 2014, Olinka had twins Sizzel and Todz. Shortly afterwards, Eric passed away.

Seven of her eight cubs are alive and well, and have produced eight grandchildren for Olinka.

Lloyd lives in Bremerhaven, and is the father of Lale, Lili, Anna and Elsa. Nika passed away last year in Karlsruhe. Lara still lives in Gelsenkirchen and is the mother of daughter Nanook. Arktos lives in Highlands Wildlife Park and is the father of Wee Hamish. Nanuq lives in Nuremberg. Vicks lives in Mulhouse France and is the father of daughter Nanuq and a brand new cub. Sizzel lives in Rostock, and Todz lives in LeVigen France.

Russian male Wolodja has lived in Rotterdam for the past few years, and now is the only polar bear there. 

Olinka keeping an eye on Todz and Sizzel

Twins Todz and Sizzel, with mom Olinka

Olinka and daughter Sizzel

Olinka and cub

Olinka was a patient mother, here with Sizzel and Todz

It's sad to think that Olinka is gone. She was a loving, attentive mother, happy to play with her cubs, and very affectionate. A beautiful lady. She leaves a lasting legacy in her children and grandchildren.

 There are only a few polar bears of the Olaf and Olga line left in the U.S., in spite of their having seven children. I am happy to know so many of their bloodline lives on in Olinka's cubs all over Europe.

Olinka has now strolled into history. Rest in Peace, sweet lady.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Tragedy in Detroit



Update on April 25, 2021: The cause of Anana's death has been announced. She died of heart failure. The wounds on her head were probably from Nuka trying to move her around the area, maybe nudge her back to life.

Today is a very sad day. Our beloved Anana, age 20, was killed today, Monday, February 8, 2021, by 16 year old Nuka in the Detroit Zoo.  They had lived together last year in peace, and had just been reunited last week when Anana emerged after denning up. 

The male, Nuka, has been with several females over the years, without incident. The other female polar bear at the zoo, Suka, gave birth to twins in November and is behind the scenes. 

Anana in Cincinnati

Anana was born December 12, 2000 in Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City to Chinook and Andy. She went to the Buffalo Zoo when she was two, and lived there until 2013, shortly after she gave birth to Luna, who still lives in Buffalo. Luna's father was the late wildborn Nanuq. Anana took no interest in the cub, so Luna was raised by keepers. Anana moved almost immediately to Chicago. 

Anana in Brookfield Zoo

Anana stayed for several years in Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, where she lived with old Aussie, and with his son Hudson. Then she returned to Buffalo for a year after the Buffalo Zoo completed construction of a beautiful new and spacious polar bear habitat, to replace the antiquated bear pits Anana knew before.

Anana was a very pretty, round fluffy bear

She spent several years in the Cincinnati Zoo, where she initially rejected Little One, but then changed her mind and they got along well, although no cubs resulted. 

Anana, right after she arrived in Cincinnati

While she was in Cincinnati, I went to see her quite a bit, and she was a real favorite with zoo visitors. She was petite, just about 450 pounds, and very round and fluffy, with a cute pouty lower lip. She was playful and fun, and loved to pose for the visitors.

Anana, eating, while Little One adores

She brought out the best in Little One. He was active and playful again, in spite of his advanced years. They seemed to really enjoy each others' company, once Anana got over her original reluctance.

Anana at Halloween. There's that cute lower lip.

Anana would take awhile to warm up to a new male companion. In Buffalo, she didn't want Nanuq at first, but after a year, she decided she liked him after all, and the result was Luna. The same thing happened in Cincinnati. She and Little One would huff and puff at each other, and avoid getting close for the longest time, and then all of a sudden, she couldn't get enough of him.  

Maybe that is what happened in Detroit, but Nuka was impatient and didn't want to play her games. We don't know what happened and maybe never will.

A year ago she moved from Cincinnati to Detroit, and it was hoped that she might have another cub with Nuka.

It is rare for polar bear mating to to lead to a death, but it does sometimes happen with these predators. A similar tragedy happened in Russia last spring, A polar bear named Aurora moved from the Royev Ruchey Zoo in Krasnoyarsk to Izhevsk Zoo in March. She was introduced to the male Baloo, all seemed to be going well. Then Baloo attacked suddenly and killed Aurora, on April 29, 2020.

Anana's sudden tragic death comes as a great shock to me. I knew her so well, and she had a big personality in such a tiny bear body. And now she is gone. I was hoping to see her again this spring when I go to Detroit to see Suka's cubs. I miss her already.

Besides her daughter Luna, she also had twin brothers, Kiska and Koluk, who live in Arizona, and a brother, Denali, who lives in Sapporo Japan.

Rest in Peace, beautiful girl.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Donuts for the Birthday Girl - Qannik!

Qannik gobbles up some frozen treats
 on her birthday at the Louisville Zoo

Wildborn Qannik's exact birthday is a mystery, but January 10 was a good guess. Somewhere in the wilds of Alaska, her twin sister is also turning 10, if she survived. Back in 2011, the mother bear and her twin daughters were tagged, and Qannik still has a good sized hole in her ear from those early days.

The hole in her ear, where Qannik was tagged as a cub,
 can still be seen

Since the arrival of Qannik at Louisville Zoo, the Ice Princess has enjoyed some wonderful birthday parties. For this year's party, held on January 9, the keepers went with a fun Donut theme. 

Qannik and her reflection in the big pool at Glacier Run

Ten years ago Qannik and her twin sister were born to a wild mother bear in an oilfield in the North Slope in Northern Alaska. Sometime in late Spring, the bear family was caught in a terrible snowstorm. Qannik was separated from her family and was on her own for some time. She was found weighing only 13 pounds, and taken to the Alaska Zoo to regain her strength. 

Qannik sit in front of her favorite window and delights her fans,
as she waits for her party to start at Glacier Run

With the widespread publication of adorable baby photos by zoo photographer John Gomes, Qannik became an internet sensation. The international polar bear community had been devastated by the tragic death of Knut in the Berlin Zoo in March of 2011,  and everyone was cheered by news of the miraculous rescue of this little cub in the wilds of Alaska. In late June of 2011, she was flown to her new home in Glacier Run in the Louisville Zoo.  It took quite awhile before she could meet her public. The windows of the smaller enclosure were covered with paper, so she could get used to the space in private. They removed bits of the paper, a little at a time. I finally was able to visit her in September, and some of the windows were still covered.

Baby Qannik in September of 2011 at Glacier Run.
She loved rocking in this barrel toy.

On January 9, just before her party, Qannik roams the overhead crossing,
 while her keepers set up her donut party by the big pool.

There was a lot of press coverage of Qannik's party.
  Very few members of the public were present, as they hadn't really told anyone.  Everyone was wearing a mask.
We all sang Happy Birthday to Qannik.

One of the keepers spreads peanut butter onto a block,
 which would hold the paper birthday sign.

A new giant pickle and a jolly ball were Qannik's birthday gifts.
 The grizzly bears had destroyed her old pickle from an earlier birthday.

The door was opened,
 and Qannik ran down the ramp to discover all her birthday surprises.

Qannik snacks on a piece of pumpkin

Enjoying the party

How do you eat these ice pops? 

She discovers the marshmallows

MMM, yummy marshmallows

Colored cardboard pieces were glued on with peanut butter,
 so Qannik eats those too. All the colors were safe to eat, and it is fine for a polar bear to eat a little cardboard, the keepers told me.
 This one is flavored with blueberry

The cardboard donuts on the tree had peanut butter too,
 but here she goes for a bigger donut on the ramp.

                                                               Where did it go?

More paper donuts and apple slices on the tree.

Whoops! She knocked the tree down.

                                 Qannik always enjoys her young visitors. 

Happy Birthday, Qannik. Don't let the Grizzly Bears near your new pickle!

A note on Lee:

Qannik has always been on her own. The grizzly bear family, Otis, Rita and Inga, were at Glacier Run when Qannik arrived, and rotate through the two enclosures, and the downstairs bedrooms. Old lady bear Arki, grandmother of Siku, was already in Glacier Run with Qannik arrived. She passed away in 2013. Young Siku, a 2 year old male at the time, arrived shortly after Qannik in the fall of 2011, but the two were never together, and he moved to Lincoln Park Zoo in 2016. 

11 year old Lee, a big male bear, came to Louisville in late summer, early September of 2020, as I remember, but his presence was not announced to the public until recently, and he still not on exhibit. I was told he is  being treated for allergies, but will be out soon. However, he will also be kept separate from Qannik, as she is property of Fish and Wildlife, and is not allowed to be part of the zoo breeding program.. 

Lee is the father of 1 year old Kulu of the Columbus Zoo, and is one of only three male bears in US zoos who have proven fertility, Marty and Nuka being the other two. So I suspect Lee is in Louisville because they needed the space in Columbus in case Anana had a cub. We have heard no cub news, so Lee may indeed return to Columbus, or go somewhere else as part of the breeding program. Just my speculation.

Because the three grizzly bears (now separated) and Qannik are rotated through the two public enclosures at Glacier Run, with the keepers usually changing them in the middle of the day, you can never be sure of seeing Qannik. Her birthday is the one day of the year you can be certain she will be out with her public at the Louisville Zoo.