It’s International Polar Bear Day!

1 (6)This snow white bear is a very important animal, not only are they incredibly cute, they are a fierce hunter, and very dependent on their environment for survival. Researchers keep a keen eye on the polar bear population as an indicator of our overall planet’s health.

Why is this? Polar bears are dependent on the sea ice to hunt seal (their favorite food), when that ice melts due to climate change they lose their hunting ground and without access to their main source of food the population suffers.

So today celebrate the polar bear and be conscious of how you treat the environment, because the actions we take affect the whole planet.

Do you want to learn more about polar bears and their chilly habitat? Here is a list of Arbordale books that feature polar bears!

Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue
Kali_128Follow the rescue of orphaned polar bear Kali (pronounced Cully) from the Inupiat village of Kali (Point Lay in English) to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage to his new home at the Buffalo Zoo in New York with Luna, a female polar bear. This photographic journey beautifully captures the remarkable development of the cub, who initially drinks from a baby bottle, sucks his paw for comfort, and sleeps with a “blankie” as he rapidly grows into the largest land carnivore on earth.

Polar Bears and Penguins: A Compare and Contrast Book
PolarPenguins_128Polar bears and penguins may like cold weather but they live at opposite ends of the Earth. What do these animals have in common and how are they different? You might see them near each other at a zoo but they would never be found in the same habitats in the wild. Compare and contrast these polar animals through stunning photographs

In Arctic Waters
Arctic_128An arctic adaptation of “This is the House that Jack Built” follows polar bears, walruses, seals, narwhals and beluga whales as they chase each other around “the ice that floats in the Arctic waters.” Not only is the rhythmic, cumulative prose good for early readers; it is a pure delight to read aloud. The “For Creative Minds” section helps children learn how these animals live in the cold, icy arctic region.

Fur and Feathers
FurFeathers_128When Sophia dreams that howling winds whisk the fur and feathers right off her animal friends, she shares some of her clothes with them. But her clothing doesn’t work well for the animals. Seeing their disappointment, she offers to sew each one the “right” coat. Animals line up to explain what they need and why. Polar Bear needs white fur to stay warm and hide in the snow. Fish needs scales, but with slime. Snake needs scales too, but dry ones. And how will Sophia make a prickly coat for Porcupine? The award-winning team of Halfmann and Klein (Little Skink’s Tail) reunite to bring animal coverings (and classification) to life in an imaginative way.

On the Move: Mass Migrations
OnTheMove_128Imagine seeing hundreds of the same type of animal gathered at the same place and at the same time! Right here in North America many animals gather in huge numbers and can be seen at predictable times and locations. Not all migrations are tied to seasonal food changes—some are tied to life cycles and the need to gather in huge numbers. Certain birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians, fish, and even insects migrate during spring, summer, fall, or winter. Travel along with them as you learn about what puts these animals On the Move. key phrases for educators: life cycles, migrations, seasons, geography.

Buffalo’s most influential Bears!

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.

Luna and CaitlynAs 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 thefriends 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)?

HeadShotCaitlyn: 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.  play

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.

trainingThe 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!