Niagara Gazette

Communities

May 15, 2013

Orphaned polar bear cub lands at Buffalo Zoo

Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — It may have been the most anticipated package ever delivered to the Buffalo Zoo: an orphaned polar bear cub that arrived Wednesday from Alaska and will spend the summer with another cub born six months ago.

Kali arrived aboard a UPS flight at Buffalo Niagara International Airport shortly before 5:30 a.m., ending a 14-hour trip that was set in motion in March when a hunter in Alaska realized an adult female bear he'd killed was nursing.

"He followed the tracks back to the den, crawled down inside, found a cub, pulled it out, put it in his coveralls, rode it back into Point Lay and then got hold of U.S. Fish and Wildlife," said Patrick Lampi, executive director of the Alaska Zoo, which has cared for the bear since.

Subsistence hunting is allowed in the area, but hunters aren't allowed to shoot females with cubs, Lampi said after accompanying the cub to Buffalo.

Called Kali after the Inupiat name for Point Lay, the male cub now weighs 65 pounds and is estimated to be just less than 5 months old. It would have been unable to care for itself in the wild, experts said. Young polar bears stay with their mothers for about 2 years.

In Buffalo, it will slowly be introduced to Luna, a female polar bear born Nov. 27 that has become a visitor favorite and the face of an $18 million fundraising campaign for a planned Arctic exhibit and new zoo entrance. Experts said both cubs will benefit from interacting with each other rather than only human caretakers.

A few hours after Kali's arrival, the cubs were in adjacent dens, able to smell and hear each other but prevented by a solid barrier from visual and physical contact. The next step will be to replace the barrier with mesh.

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