Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Happy 12th Birthday to Qannik

 Once upon a time there was a little rescued polar bear named Qannik, who lived in the Louisville Zoo.

Qannik shortly after she arrived in Louisville in 2011.

Little Qannik back in mid-2011 in Louisville.

Well, that rescued little polar bear cub is now 12 years old, and weighs 550 pounds. She is very firm in her likes and dislikes. Does not want fish, but loves pumpkin. Loves to swim and hide things in her special hidey hole. Would rather sit in a window with her fans than do anything else.

The Louisville Zoo held their annual Qannik Birthday Party on Saturday, January 7, with lots of fans and well-wishers there to sing to the birthday girl. 

Keepers prop up the number 12 with some Christmas trees
for Qannik's celebration.

The keepers had prepared some ice bombes with pumpkin chunks and apple slices. They hid more pumpkin chunks in Christmas trees and decorated tissue boxes. They set out a lovely buffet for the birthday girl, and then they opened the door so she could descend the magical ramp and make a grand entrance like the Princess she is.

Qannik enters the "Party Zone"

                                  Quite the sweet buffet for the birthday girl.

Checking out the party buffet.

Qannik nods to her guests as they sing Happy Birthday to her.

Wow! Twelve years already!

Oh, some nice ice chunks!

Where to start?

Qannik wonders where the bartender might be.

The birthday girl can just help herself.

                                                                Blue or Pink?

                         Apples and Pumpkin chunks, yummy.


Looking for more...

Hey, I found another one.

By now, everyone knows the story of Qannik, the little rescued polar bear. She and her mother and sister were first noticed in the oil fields of the North Slope in January of 2011. Mother was collared and the cubs were given ear tags. The family was followed through the radio collar for a time, until it fell off the mom. In April, Qannik was found alone and starving, weighing just 15 pounds, probably separated from her mom and sister by a storm. No one really knows. 

Qannik was taken to the Alaska Zoo, where she was bottle-fed and pampered and recovered nicely from her ordeal. In late June, she was flown to the Louisville Zoo, where she was raised by loving keepers. 

And there she has lived in Louisville ever since. She has a deep diving pool where she has a lot of fun, and many toys, always something to do. There is another polar bear, an older male named Lee, and three grizzly bears, but while Qannik sees and smells them in the bedroom area, she is never with them.

Qannik still has the hole in her ear from the ear tag. Because she is property of Fish and Wildlife, she cannot be part of the breeding program, which is just fine with her because she likes being alone and the center of attention. She often sits by her window as her adoring fans admire her.

     An excellent 12th birthday party for Qannik, here resting 
                   in the overhead passage of Glacier Run.

Happy Birthday Qannik.

You have grown into a beautiful lady bear.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Farewell to Berlin


Berlin in the Como Zoo, shortly after she was rescued from the
Duluth Flood at the Lake Superior Zoo
Berlin in snow, winter of 2012-13 in Como Zoo.

She was a lovely bear, who could have told some incredible stories about her adventures if she could speak.

Berlin has left us, at the age of 33. She spent her last years at the Kansas City Zoo, where she was a well loved resident, known for her cheerful, fun-loving spirit.

                                             Berlin loved to play with balls

Along the way she lived with a longterm boyfriend, got to spend quality time with some relatives in Minnesota, and was companion to three different bears in the Kansas City Zoo. She even took up the hobby of gardening while in KC.

In a facebook post today, the Lake Superior Zoo posted about the loss of Berlin:
Director of Animal Management at the Lake Superior Zoo, Lizzy Larson said, “I was one of Berlin's caretakers for 3 years and the thing that I will remember most about Berlin was how incredibly smart she was. Everything Berlin did, had a purpose. She could solve every puzzle we gave her and I never found a toy she didn't like! I will fondly remember how enthusiastically she would jump into her pool to play. She has had the best care at all the facilities she's had the chance to live at and I know that she has touched countless hearts in her 33 years of life. We will all be mourning her loss."

In Lake Superior Zoo, Berlin liked to toss a ball back and forth with visitors. She is fondly remembered by many for her fun-loving ways.

Berlin and her twin brother Yukon were born December 11, 1989 in the Cincinnati Zoo. Berlin was named for current events in Germany, the fall of the Berlin Wall. The twins' parents were Connie (Amy), who was granddaughter of Olaf and Olga of the Omaha Zoo, and Icee, who was born in Louisville. Berlin and Yukon were the only cubs ever born and raised at the Cincinnati Zoo. Connie and Icee had no other cubs.

Yukon moved to Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester YN, and died in 2008, but did father four cubs with Aurora there: Anana now in North Carolina, Haley now in Memphis, Lee now in Louisville (and the father of Kulu), and Anoki now in her birthplace of Rochester again. Berlin never did have any cubs, but spent much of her earlier life with Bubba, who was Aurora's brother.

When she was just a year old, Berlin moved north from Cincinnati to the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth Minnesota. She was soon joined by a male of the same age named Bubba, who was a charismatic, playful and entertaining bear.   

Bubba and his twin sister Aurora were born in the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City in November of 1989, and their parents were mother Chinook and father Cheechacko.  When Bubba died of liver failure at the young age of 17 in August of 2007, the Lake Superior Zoo even had a "celebration of life" for this beloved icon. Berlin became even more active and playful without Bubba there.

Life was just about perfect for Berlin in Duluth, until the Great Flood of June 21, 2012. When nine inches of rain fell in Duluth in just a few hours, some low areas of the zoo, which was built along a river, were deluged. Two harbor seals, Feisty and Vivian, escaped into the city streets. A dozen animals drowned. Berlin's enclosure was flooded and broken. At 5 a.m., she was found sitting on a rock near her home, waiting to be rescued. She was darted and safely moved to a secure location, but her enclosure was destroyed. Berlin was homeless.

A few hours drive to the South, Berlin's uncles Neil and Buzz had some extra room in their newly rebuilt home at the Como Zoo in St. Paul, so Berlin was invited to move in. After a month's required quarantine, Berlin was introduced to Neil and Buzz, a couple of laid back twin brothers, somewhat younger than Berlin. Berlin's father Icee was older brother to Neil and Buzz.

                                              Berlin and her Uncle Buzz

The reunited family got along just great. Neil and Buzz allowed their niece Berlin to be the boss. Berlin again thought that she was in the perfect place. She had wonderful big pools in which to swim, piles of snow, lots of toys, and two other bears who let her be in charge. My daughter Corinna visited the bears and took some of the photos featured here. 

                 Berlin, right, with one of her uncles peeking out

Six months after the flood, Berlin was sent to Kansas City to be companion to an active, playful young male named Nikita, who was only 6 years old but had lived in Kansas City for a couple of years already, so it was his territory. He was the boss. Nikita was the star of the Kansas City Zoo.  Nikita wanted Berlin to play with him, but she would have none of it. Nikita, the son of Nan and Marty, was big and bold and young and full of energy and clearly dominant. Berlin mostly avoided him.


For the next three years, the bears lived together, but Berlin would keep to the side, and let Nikita be the star, always with a wary eye watching out for him. I used to watch them on the bears' webcam, and noticed that we didn't see the two bears together. Then in January of 2016, the popular Nikita was moved out in the dark of night. He went to Asheboro, North Carolina to be with a young girl bear, Berlin's niece Anana (daughter of brother Yukon). Nikita's fans in Kansas City were crushed. They complained that now only the boring old lady bear was left, and she was no fun. (Nikita is now in Salt Lake City).

                                                       Berlin on patrol

For the next few weeks after Nikita's departure, Berlin keep looking around, thinking that her arch-nemesis might not really be gone. If she came across a toy that he had played with and still smelled like Nikita, she wanted nothing to do with it. Gradually, she realized that she was gloriously alone again, and she became more active, more playful, even at her advanced age of 27.

                                Berlin diving for a pear in KC

It was after Nikita left that Berlin took up gardening. She was given a melon to eat, and carefully planted a seed, which grew into a fine plant and produced a melon, which Berlin let grown until it reached the perfect state of ripeness, then she picked and ate her harvest.

                                                             Berlin the gardener

I visited her in 2017, and marveled at how active she was, even at her age. She was quite the swimmer too, retrieving various fruits and vegetables that the keepers threw into the pool. 

                                          Berlin waits for the keeper 
                            to throw some more goodies into the pool. 

                                          Berlin diving for snacks

In 2018, another senior lady bear of about the same age, Fanny (better known as Bam Bam), moved in from the Henry Doorly Zoo in nearby Omaha.  The old ladies' club lasted about a year, and then Berlin's new friend Bam Bam passed away.

In late 2020, four year old Nuniq, born in Columbus Ohio, moved in, and Berlin could play grandmother to the youngster.
Now with the loss of Berlin, Nuniq is alone in that roomy grassy habitat. 

Berlin was well loved by her keepers, and as a playful bear, she had many fans who visited her. Berlin, at age 33, was the second oldest polar bear in human care in the world, the oldest being the famous dwarf bear Antonia in Gelsenkirchen Germany, just two weeks older.

Berlin was a special bear, and will be greatly missed.

Thanks to my daughter Corinna Troth for the photos of Berlin at the Como Zoo.