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.


  1. Molly Thank you for this report today. The Knutis Weekly community followed Qannik closely, because she was rescued soon after we lost Knut.
    What a special day

    1. Thank you Ralph. I know Qannik is loved all over the world. I am lucky that I can be there to celebrate her birthday every year.