Today we meet the newest addition to the Alaska Zoo: a baby polar bear named Kali. The cub was recently put on display for its very first media photo shoot.
Unfortunately for this radio reporter, Kali didn’t make much noise. But, he did put on a show for everyone: lightly pouncing about his pen and at one point slipping off of a toy plastic house, landing right on his backside.
The bear was rescued by a hunter near Point Lay after he shot its mother and then realized the bear was nursing a cub. The zoo already has two polar bears, so they aren’t able to keep Kali permanently. Patrick Lampi is the Executive Director at the Alaska Zoo, and he’s been keeping an eye on the cub for the past few weeks.
“We do all the proper veterinary testing to make sure it’s healthy. Keep a close eye on it, check its weight, make sure it’s eating its diet properly. And then give it some exercise and stimulation and enrichment,” says Lampi. “We have very capable keepers and a curator, so they feed the bear cub and clean its pen and I stop by two to three times a day to spend a little bit of time with it. It’s one of the perks I have of this job.”
During the bear’s press event it seemed to be more interested in Lampi than the swarm of news people surrounding its cage, or the half dozen toys made available for play. Lampi says this kind of behavior is normal for an orphaned bear.
“They become attached to all their keepers because out in the wild they have mother and then usually a sibling for three years as a companion. My philosophy is that when a bear cub comes in by itself it does need some companionship and we fill that role. If you have two cubs that come in, a set of twins or something, then they have each other to play with and spend time so I don’t think the human interaction is quite as important,” Lampi says.
It’s not clear where Kali will end up long term, but he will be sent to the Buffalo Zoo sometime this spring to receive that companionship he’s going to need.
“They have a young female that was born at the Buffalo zoo and then rejected by its mother. So, if that’s the case it does make perfectly good sense that they have companionship to be raised with. But I think it’s yet to be determined where its permanent home is going to be,” says Lampi.
In the mean time the cub will be on display at the Alaska Zoo twice a day. Once from 11:00 am – noon and once from 3 to 4:00 pm, although the zoo can’t guarantee the cub will come out of its indoor housing to interact with anyone. That’s a luxury only Lampi is promised.
“By far it’s the best part of my job to get to spend a little time with the orphan bear cubs that come through here. It’s a lot of fun they’re very reactive to you, playful. You can see them every day getting strong and stronger and more coordinated, and a little more adventurous. It’s very rewarding to see them grow and develop and know they’re going to go to a good home,” Lampi said.
The cute video: