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.

Friday, January 1, 2021

The many loves of Little One


Little One cuddles Anana, while she eats.
Who can think of food at a time like this? he asks.

Little One of the Cincinnati Zoo has just turned 31 years old, the oldest male polar bear in this hemisphere. He lives alone now, but for most of his life, he has shared his space with three special ladies. For all his efforts, though, he has never fathered a cub. 

Little One

He was born December 13, 1989 in the Cleveland Zoo to Snowball and Nauyet. His older brother Blizzard was born in 1984 and died in 2005. Blizzard fathered one cub, a son named Tundra, with Snow Lily. Tundra died in 2017. Snow Lily still lives, and is the oldest polar bear, at age 36, in the Western Hemisphere.  

Little One has a sister, now age 29, in Japan. Satsuki has never had cubs. She was born in 1991 and moved to Japan in 2007.

He also had a half sister, Aurora, born in 1982 and died in Cleveland in 2012. She had lived in several other zoos over the years.

Little One lived in Cleveland until he was eight years old. He lived in Silver Springs Maryland for a few months, then returned to Cleveland where he stayed for another ten years. I don't know anything about his love life during those Cleveland years. For some of that time, his half sister Aurora also lived in Cleveland. 

Pumpkin time at the Cincinnati Zoo

At the beginning of January in 2007 he came to Cincinnati, where he met 8 year old Berit and 10 year old Rizzo. 

In the days of the Three Bears in Lords of the Arctic

Rizzo, a pretty round fluffy girl, was Little One's favorite. He liked Berit well enough, but they were just friends. 

Rizzo and Litle One

The two girls, however, really were best friends, and often took naps together, preferring each other's company unless it was springtime breeding season.

Berit and Rizzo sleeping in December of 2011. They were best friends

Little One and Rizzo

In 2012, Rizzo was moved to Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City where there was a brand new enclosure, and they really wanted a polar bear. Rizzo lived there alone until her death in 2017. 

Berit and Little One

After Rizzo left the Cincinnati Zoo, Little One took another look at Berit, and thought she looked pretty good. So during breeding season, they would play courtship games and splash in the water. Still, no cubs. 

Little One steals Berit's heart on Valentine's Day

Little One and Berit

Berit and Little One

The folks at the Species Survival Plan thought they would shake things up, and in the spring of 2016 moved Berit to Madison Wisconsin, bringing in a female who had already produced a cub, Anana, from Buffalo. 

In 2012,  Anana had given birth to Luna, who was raised by keepers because Anana was not a good mother. Anana had spent some time in Brookfield Zoo while a new polar bear facility was built in Buffalo, then returned to Buffalo for a time, before coming to Cincinnati.

                              Little One watches Anana from a distance.

Anana and Little One did not hit it off at first. For their first year, they showed a great dislike toward each other, grufting and growling when the other one got to close. They mostly avoided each other.

                      The confrontation. Alana on shore and Little One in the water.

Maybe Little One was missing his old comfortable companion Berit. Maybe Anana was a little too pushy for him. In any case, it was like oil and water. The breeding season of the spring of 2017 came and went. Spring and Summer and Fall passed by. 

Little One wants Anana's attention.

And then, like a light switch being turned on, Little One and Anana seemed to fall in love.

In the spring of 2018 they were the lovebirds of the Cincinnati Zoo. In the fall and winter, everyone waited to see if Anana would have cubs. But no. There were no cubs that year.

Love bites for Anana

Breeding season arrived again in the spring of 2019. Little One followed Anana around like a puppy dog. Volunteers with clipboards documented their every move. Cameras watched them at night. Everyone was hopeful once again. Zookeepers got her a smaller box for the den because that was supposed to help. More volunteers watched the den cam. Local news stations posted updates. 

Anana flirts with Little One

Anana and Little One

Anana and Little One

Mr. and Mrs. Anana

Anana asks Little One to come into the pool with her

Little One loves Anana

And then we were all let down again when Anana emerged from her den. 

After that, it was decided that Little One was just getting too old for all the excitement and exertion of another breeding season. Anana was packed off to Detroit, where there is a another female, Suka, and a 16 year old male named Nuka, who is considered fertile. 

Little One on his birthday

Little One has been alone since last January. He was very active, out and about, when Anana lived in Cincinnati. Now he mostly sleeps in the pile of straw behind his rock, sometimes takes a swim, sometimes lumbers around the enclosure.

His keepers say he is doing fine for his age, no major problems. He has lost weight, and sleeps a lot. They let him do what he wants, when he wants to. They say he actually prefers living alone now.

His favorite foods are peanuts, his polar bear chow, and fish. He got some mackerel for his 31st birthday, but there wasn't a party planned. He would probably sleep through it anyway.

He has toys, recently a new giant pickle. But he doesn't really play anymore. He did play when Anana was here. They would spend hours in the pool, splashing and teasing each other.

Little One on his birthday, December 13. There's that pickle he never plays with.

He is more active in the morning, although some have caught him awake in the early afternoon.

And when he dreams, does he dream of his past loves? Berit, Rizzo and Anana.

Little One in July of 2020, yawning, probably ready for another nap