In the small village of Point Lay, on the edge of Alaska, a teacher snapped pictures of Kali as he was brought into their town, after being rescued from a den in the wild. She generously shared those pictures and stories with author Jennifer Keats Curtis which helped to make Kali’s Story take shape.
As Kali and Luna have become stars in Buffalo, the kids of Point Lay and one class in particular have followed his journey. Author Jennifer Keats Curtis passed along a few questions to Kali and Luna’s keeper, Caitlyn. And she gives us the inside scoop on how these two bears have grown up and become “a happy light for many, many people here!”
Class: Is Kali getting along well with Luna?
Caitlyn: Kali and Luna are the best of friends!
When we initially put them together back in May (after Kali got here he spent a little time getting settled in) they spent a while being a little nervous around each other. Neither of them quite knew what to make of the other… but as soon as they realized that the other little white thing that was looking at them was actually something that would be able to play back, they fell in love!
Ever since then, all they do each and every day is play together. And after play time is over and they come inside off exhibit for the night, they can always be found snuggled up next to each other while they sleep.
Kali especially seemed to need Luna a lot when he first got here. She has always been a very confident bear, even when she was by herself. When Kali first arrived, he was a little unsure of everything. He had been through a lot in the first few months of his life and seemed anxious.
After he was put together with Luna, he obviously found A LOT of comfort in her, and followed her everywhere. Now that he’s older and much more confident in himself, he will venture off and explore and play on his own sometimes. This is something we love to see, that means he’s a happy and well adjusted bear! Even though he will sometimes play by himself, like I said before, the majority of his time is spent playing and making big messes on exhibit with Luna.
Class: How big was he when he arrived at the zoo? How big is he now (and how much bigger than Luna)?
Caitlyn: When Kali first got to the Buffalo Zoo, he was about 65 lbs. Believe it or not, now, he is about 450 lbs! It has only been about 10 months and he has gained almost 400 lbs!
Even though we estimate Luna to be about a month older than Kali is, Luna only weighs about 295 lbs.
This is because of their difference in gender. Luna is probably slightly more than half of what she will weigh when she is an adult in a couple years; however Kali still has a lot of growing to do! I have a feeling he is going to be a big guy when he is an adult. I weigh them weekly and keep a very close eye on their body score to make sure they neither bear is gaining too much or too little weight.
Class: What do they like to do together?
Caitlyn: The bears love playing in their pool together (even when the temperature is -5 degrees!). I ordered them a toy called a “pool pickle” which is a durable plastic pool toy that looks like a GIANT three foot long pickle and it is definitely one of their favorites.
If they aren’t playing with toys or wrestling with each other, one of their other favorite activities is to make as big of a mess on exhibit as they possibly can! Now that the ground is frozen and snow covered, it’s a little harder for them. Before there was snow though, they would grab a clump of grass, carry them to the pool, drop them in, and then go off and find another clump to drop in. Or after a good rainfall, they would find a good spot to lie down, and roll around in until they’ve made their own personal mud puddles.
Class: What do they eat?
Caitlyn: Right now, the bears eat meat (it is a brand that is specially produced for zoos, for carnivores to consume) as well as formula. Even though they look big, they are still considered babies since they still have so much growing to do. The formula is important for them due to the calcium they get from it which helps in proper development of their bones.
They way that I administer the formula to them is through a big 60 ml medical syringe (obviously with no needle on the end). I stick the end of the syringe through the caging in their holding area and they drink the formula right out of it from there, just like they would be nursing from mom.
The formula syringe is also a great tool for training. I train each bear daily to do a variety of things. Kali, for instance, knows how to sit, target (touch the end of a poll with his nose at varying heights and spots) and station in one spot for weighing. Luna can sit, present the bottoms of either of her front paws depending on which I ask for, and lay down, target and station for weighing.
They will probably stay on the formula until they are at least a year and a half old, since that’s usually the earliest a mother bear would wean her babies naturally. Once a week I give them a BIG bone to chew on, which helps keep their teeth clean. Other than these items that they get regularly, they will get frozen Gatorade or chicken broth as enrichment treats.
And just because we can’t get enough of these cute bears here are a few more pictures of Kali and Luna at play!
Learn more about Kali’s Story here or plan a visit to the Buffalo Zoo to see them in action!