The Louisville Zoo issued a press release, they have another new polar bear! Siku, a 585 lb nearly two year-old male polar bear cub arrived safely in Louisville from the Toledo Zoo on September 6. Siku is the second polar bear cub to move to the Louisville Zoo’s newest exhibit, the arctic-themed Glacier Run which opened in April 2011. His addition brings the Glacier Run polar bear population to three (there are only 79 polar bears in zoos in North America). He joins seven month-old female, Qannik, the rescued Alaskan cub and Arki, an adult female polar bear. Also residing in Glacier Run is the rescued grizzly bear family of three — Inga, Otis and Rita.
“Siku’s move went well thanks to the professional team from the Toledo Zoo” said Louisville Zoo Director John Walczak. “Within 30 minutes of arriving Siku was already in his private pool swimming. He arrives at an exciting time for us with our recently opened bear habitat offering state-of-the-art bear space for Siku and the rest of our bears. The design of this facility demonstrates our clear commitment to the species and educating zoo visitors about the challenges facing the bears and ways they can help by reducing our carbon footprint.”
Siku will be off-exhibit in a private den with an adjacent pool and play area for a standard 30 day quarantine, a typical period of isolation from other animals, restricted access to the public, and intense health and behavioral monitoring by keepers and veterinary staff before he goes into exhibit rotation with the other bears.
The plan is to eventually introduce Siku and Qannik, however it will not occur right now due to their difference in sizes. Viewing Status updates on both Qannik and Siku will be available on the Zoo’s website at www.LouisvilleZoo.org
Siku was born December 3, 2009 at the Toledo Zoo to mother, Crystal, and father, Marty. Siku’s name means “ice” in the Iñupiaq language and was chosen by schoolchildren on Alaska’s North Slope. Qannik’s name means “snowflake” in the Iñupiaq language and was also the name of the ConocoPhillips Oil field where she was found.
Siku’s placement at the Louisville Zoo was a key factor in Operation Snowflake, the collaboration between Alaska Zoo and Louisville Zoo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS),Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Polar Bears International (PBI), the Toledo and San Diego Zoos, and UPS that placed the rescued cub, Qannik, in Louisville. The determination was made because both the physical and psychological needs of both cubs could be met in Louisville. “It is a little sad when our animals leave,” said Dr. Randi Meyerson, who was instrumental in the decision making process. Meyerson is the Toledo Zoo’s Curator of Mammals and the Coordinator of the Polar Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), one of the AZA’s cooperative breeding management programs, “but the Louisville Zoo’s new Glacier Run bear habitat is an excellent facility with a lot of space, flexibility, animal-training and enrichment options. Siku, Qannik and Arki have a promising future there. They will play an important role as ambassadors for polar bears in the wild, and help inspire the public to understand the significant relationship between our carbon footprints, climate change and the threats to arctic environments and polar bears.”
Update on Qannik
Qannik, the rescued Alaskan polar bear cub, has settled nicely into her new home at Glacier Run following her arrival at the end of June 2011 via “Operation Snowflake.” She was approximately five months-old and 56 lbs at that time. She continues to gain the desired pound or so per day and now weighs a healthy 125 lbs. After a quarantine and acclimation period, she is currently on exhibit for a few hours several times a day. These times remain flexible and may vary day-to-day so that her comfort, development and safety can remain a priority. “We don’t want to let her anticipate things that are going to happen such as consistent feeding and exhibit times so that she stays curious, stimulated and highly engaged with her environment. We really want to mix it up for her,” says Qannik’s primary caregiver and assistant mammal curator, Jane Anne Franklin.
Guests can see Qannik in the Bear Alley portion of Glacier Run, where she frolicks in hay, jumps in her ice bin, climbs stairs to run across the Bear Walk to peer down at the guests below, jumps in and out of an old pick-up truck that is part of the exhibit and generally delights guests with her energy and cub antics. “She will go to something and try to figure it out and then she will leave it for a while and go off to play with another toy. Then you will see her come back and use a different tactic,” Franklin adds. “ She is a really smart bear! We are learning so much from her.” Viewing Status updates on both Qannik and Siku will be available on the Zoo’s website at www.LouisvilleZoo.org.
Qannik is owned and managed by the USFWS and any major plans including breeding will be decided upon by the organization. Being a wild-born bear, Qannik’s offspring would add an important genetic diversity to the captive polar bear population.
The bear habitat of Glacier Run, the Louisville Zoo’s newest exhibit, opened in April 2011 and shows the Zoo’s commitment to the species in both the facility design and programming. The Louisville Zoo worked closely with PBI in the process of designing and building Glacier Run and through this partnership the Zoo has been designated as an Arctic Ambassador Center. Designed as an imaginary town on the edge of the arctic wilderness, Glacier Run is modeled after Churchill, Canada, the polar bear capital of the world and a place where humans are learning to co-exist with wildlife. The exhibit offers spectacular views, captivating stories of the arctic and unique opportunities for close-up encounters with the magnificent and iconic polar bear, as well as grizzly bears, seals and sea lions. Guests can interact with zoo keepers, learn about current challenges to arctic environments and animals, and discover how incremental changes in our everyday activities and behaviors can make a difference for our planet and these magnificent species.
The Louisville Zoo, a non-profit organization and state zoo of Kentucky, is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
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Photo source: Louisville Zoo