|Kallu top, Kallik below.|
|Kallu top, and Kallik below|
The star attractions at the Toledo Zoo these days are Crystal's twin boys, Kallu and Kallik, 7 month old polar bear cubs who seem to have endless energy.
|Roly poly Kallu on top, Kallik below|
|Crystal and sons.|
One of the cubs was much much smaller than the other, and some were concerned whether the smaller cub would be strong enough to survive. But both cubs thrived, and a public webcam enabled many fans to watch them grow up in the den, and then later learn to swim in the baby pool in the private area.
|Smaller Kallik is the water baby.|
|Bigger Kallu prefers to stay on dry land|
|Kallik in the pool, Kallu not quite.|
After a week's delay from the original public debut day (it was probably the bigger brother Kallu who balked at going outside), the cubs were introduced to the world in early May. Due to popular demand, a webcam has been set up outside so everyone can watch them daily.
|Kallu and Crystal, in the den cave.|
Mother Crystal mostly watches from one of her favorite spots, while the twins entertain each other.
Kallu, the bigger brother, is always running back to Mom for reassurance, and still prefers being on shore to swimming in the pool or wading in the stream. He has a round little belly.
|Kallik all wet.|
Kallik, who is still much smaller, 30 pounds lighter, is quick on his feet, and ready for any adventure. He is inquisitive, quite the problem solver, and an enthusiastic swimmer. He comes to Mom when she calls him over for feeding time, but otherwise is pretty independent. He is built for action, more streamlined.
|One of the cubs at the window, delighting the children.|
Both cubs love to play with the visiting children through the glass, and the kids respond with squeals of delight. It is as if the cubs knew they were in the public eye from birth, and they love their celebrity status.
|Crystal was born in Belgium, and still has a sister, Blanche, living there.|
Belgium born Crystal, at age 24, is probably happy they can be playmates for each other. Her last two cubs, Hope (born in 2015) and Borealis (born in 2018), were singles, and she made great effort the play with each of them. Of course she was a little younger then.
|Crystal in the play yard.|
|Crystal with Kallu|
Crystal is grandmother to Nora, Nuniq, Neva, Amelia Gray and Kulu. The only other female polar bears we have in the US who are producing cubs are Crystal's daughters Aurora and Suka. Since Lee has returned to Columbus, there are hopes for cubs this year there. And Nuka has returned to Suka in Detroit, so this fertile pair may produce another cub or two this year. Their 2 year old twins Laerke and Astra just left Detroit to move to Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma Washington.
|Crystal finally gets up, after watching the boys play for several hours.|
Even though the demands of being a playmate are much less for a mother with twins, she has to produce twice as much milk for the growing boys. Polar bear cubs might nurse for two years, so she is not done yet. However, Crystal seems tired, listless, and these two will probably be her last cubs. I am sure she is getting all the right food to make that rich fatty polar bear milk, but it has to be draining for an older lady.
|A view of the play area, with the den cave in the center back. The cubs have a freshwater stream, and there is a dirt dig pit to the left.|
|Kallu watches as Kallik tries to free the blue box.|
Kallik took time out from this chore to run and play, and seemed to take delight in finding bits of bark to chew on. He also likes to chase his bigger slower brother around.
|The chase is on.|
|Which is rounder? The ball or Kallu's bottom?|
|Kallu brings the ball to Mama Crystal.|
|Kallik with bark.|
When Crystal calls to lead them to a nursing spot, Kallu follows right away. Kallik hangs back, always wanting to play just a bit more, but then he runs to catch up.
|Crystal and her playful sons.|
|Crystal leads Kallu away, and Kallik will follow eventually.|
|The cubs rest a bit, and nurse in the den cave.|
Twins Kallu and Kallik are the only only polar bear cubs born in a zoo in the US this year. There is an unnamed girl cub in Hamburg Germany, still behind the scenes, daughter of Victoria and Kap. And Gerda and Kai had twins in Novosibirsk, Siberia as well, two girls just now named Belka and Strelka.
While Europe and Russia have put the brakes on polar bear breeding because they have been so successful, the polar bear population in US zoos is dwindling. We only have 39 polar bears now, and all of the young bears under ten years of age are either Crystal's cubs, or her grandchildren. It will be hard to find mates who aren't closely related for these two boys, unless the ridiculous federal law banning polar bears from coming into the country is changed.
Polar bears with names that start with K
I have been struck by how popular it is in the US to name boy cubs with names beginning with the letter K. This occurred to me as I was in the ABQ Biopark in Albuquerque in mid-May, just before we lost one of the elderly twin brothers there, Koluk. I am usually very good at keeping the polar bears straight, but even I get confused, with so many names so similar, and how to spell them properly.
Before we lost one of the ABQ brothers, we had twin brothers Kiska and Koluk in ABQ, wildborn Kali in St. Louis, older wildborn Kalluk in San Diego, three year old Kulu in St. Paul Minnesota, Nuka's twin brother Koda in Memphis, and the new twins Kallu and Kallik in Toledo. That is eight bears out of the 18 male bears we had as of a month ago, bearing names that start with K, often with one or two "L's" in the middle.
And now, the girl cub (yes, it is a girl, as I suspected), born last season and recently rescued in Alaska, has been named Kova. Another K name! She will probably remain at the Alaska Zoo.
A few more fun photos from our day at the Toledo Zoo:
|The boys wrestle ...|
|Kallu shows Kallik how to have fun in the water.|
|In the den, Kallik meets one of the young visitors.|
|Napping in the den. Love that footprint.|