By Eileen Floyd
Polar bear cub Kali’s journey began on a dark note -- his mother was shot under circumstances that are now under investigation by Service Law Enforcement.
Thanks to the efforts of many, however, this orphan from the Point Lay area arrived at the Alaska Zoo near midnight on March 12, on an Alaska Airlines flight from Barrow.
En route to Anchorage, Kali peers out of his transport case at a mystifying world. (Photo: John Gomes/Alaska Zoo)
The cub, believed to be three to four months old, weighed 18.4 pounds. Kali (pronounced “Cully,” the Inupiat name for Pt. Lay) appeared to be in good shape and, during his first night at the zoo, took in about 105 ml of formula.
He was checked upon arrival by one of the Alaska Zoo’s veterinarians.
The vet summed up his examination in these words:
“I examined the polar bear cub from Barrow this afternoon. He appears to be in good weight and hydration. Heart and lungs auscultate normally, mucous membranes were moist and pink and the CRT was less than 1 second. No pain was elicited in any limb nor in the abdomen. His motor activity was as to be expected for a cub this age. He ate readily and suckled well from the bottle. Testicles were not palpable at this time.”
- Chris Michetti, DVM
For the first 36 hours, zoo staff observed Kali, paying particular attention to his sleep patterns and appetite. In the beginning he seemed to be a heavy sleeper, with active dreams. He would wake about every 3 hours to eat, and take about 350ml per feed. While the cub was initially a bit wobbly, he soon adjusted to being able to move around. (His new quarters were a lot more spacious than the dark den in which he’d spent much of his young life!)
A carefully formulated diet helped the cub increase its weight by more than 50% in the first 15 days. (Photo: John Gomes/Alaska Zoo)
Over the first week, Kali settled in and adjusted to his new diet: a combination of puppy milk replacer, water, lactase and whipping cream (for fat). Cod liver oil was added to the formula twice daily. He started skipping night feeds and sleeping through the night on the fourth day. By the end of his first week Kali weighed 22.6 pounds and was feeding four times daily.
The cub began exploring his outside yard nine days after his arrival. On March 27, Kali weighted 28 pounds and was drinking about 475ml daily. He appeared to be a very confident young bear, and played outside several times daily, for 30-60 minutes at a time.
The Alaska Zoo is proud of its history of partnering with the Service to care for orphaned and abandoned wildlife. Over the years, the Zoo has collaborated with the agency in the care of 14 polar bear cubs. Its staff stands ready to respond, and can put boots on the ground on the North Slope of Alaska within hours of notification of an orphaned animal. Zoo employees have more than 100 years of experience in dealing with polar bears.
Eileen Floyd is the Development Director for the Alaska Zoo.