Zoo News

May 01, 2015

So Long, Kali!

As we prepare to say goodbye to Kali the polar bear, we have been getting lots of questions about why he has to go, and hearing concerns about separating Kali from Luna. Keeper Caitlyn Bruce, who works with both bears, took some time to explain why Kali is leaving, and how she knows he’ll be just fine in his new home.

Keeper Caitlyn Bruce with Luna as a small cub. Photo by Kelly Ann Brown

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Kali almost two years ago. He was 65 lbs of white fluff and I thought to myself “I can’t believe this little thing is going to grow up to be a massive predator!” Kali was nervous when he first arrived at the Buffalo Zoo and that was understandable; a lot of dramatic things had already happened to him in the first few months of his life. Now, he was here and I knew this was the beginning of stability for him, and the perfect opportunity for us to help him learn the self confidence he was so in need of.

Kali was a cute cub! Photo by John Gomes

The first step towards building that self confidence was putting him together with Luna. Everyone is already well aware of how well that went and how famously those two cubs got along! This was wonderful for many reasons, but the most important reason of all was because having Luna and Kali together at this young and formative stage taught them lessons in a way that no other experience or training by any zookeeper could. It taught them how to interact and behave with other bears, a skill that is crucial for them to learn early if there is ever any hope for either of them to successfully breed in the future.

Luna has always been very confident and adjusted well to any situation she has been in. Kali found comfort in her and would follow her wherever she would go. They spent endless hours playing and interacting like the “kids” they were. Watching them grow was made very obvious simply by the sheer size increase that seemed to happen before our eyes. Kali went from being smaller than Luna to much MUCH larger. Something more was happening during those days though. As Kali’s size increased, his self confidence did as well. He started to play and occupy himself without Luna as he became more and more independent. This was exactly what we were all hoping to see happen. After all, bears are solitary creatures. There are a few different scenarios where you might see bears together. Those include a mother with cubs, siblings that have JUST left their mother, males and females during breeding season, or a group of bears aggregating around a large food source like a whale carcass. As a rule, though, almost all adult bears would much rather live by themselves, even in captivity.

Kali now weighs over 800 lbs! Photo by Kelly Ann Brown

Luna and Kali are about two and a half years old now. If they were still with their mothers, this is about the time they would be weaned and start out by themselves. Therefore, it is our responsibility to help them in this natural progression to their adulthood. Although I would love to be able to continue to work with Kali and watch firsthand as he matures and grows into a full grown bear, I am confident that the St. Louis Zoo will provide him with an environment where he will absolutely flourish. They have just completed the construction of a brand new polar bear exhibit and staff members have already come to Buffalo to visit with Kali and get to know him. He will have an outstanding home and be extremely well cared for. He will be without Luna, but soon will prefer it that way anyway, just as Luna will prefer to be by herself. This is also why once Luna’s mother, Anana, comes back to the Buffalo Zoo, they will most likely not be placed together either. It is the goal of a zookeeper to keep the animals they care for as happy, healthy, and stress free as they possibly can be. It is very likely that putting Luna and Anana together would cause a much greater amount of stress and possible injury to each other than it would bring any enjoyment for them!

It’s only natural that we all feel some sadness seeing Kali move to another zoo. After all, we watched him grow up. However, I hope that everyone also feels proud of him too. I certainly do! The growth he has shown, not just physically but in his personality and self confidence, has been more than we could have ever hoped for. He has matured so much and I’m sure will handle this new phase of his life quite well. He is on his way to becoming a big handsome adult bear and no matter where he is, will always be a part of the Buffalo family.

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