After two months of bulking up on special polar bear chow, daily workouts with his teddy bears, and lots of attention by veterinarians at the Alaska Zoo, the young bear cub named Kali is ready to move to his new home in Buffalo, N.Y.
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The long-term survival of polar bears in the wild is threatened due to declining habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the protection of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, arranged for Kali’s care at the Alaska Zoo and his move east this week.
Kali was born on the remote Northern Slope of Alaska in a snow and ice den dug by his mother on the coast of the Chukchi Sea in the Alaskan Arctic. Polar bear cubs like Kali stay in the den with their mother during their first winter because when they are born they are too small to handle the harsh winter environment. In March, he became an orphan at two months old, when his mother, who had recently emerged from the den, was shot by a subsistence hunter. That same day, Kali was taken to a nearby Native Alaskan village named Point Lay. Inupiat villagers named him Kali, which means “Point Lay” in their native language. Local authorities then escorted him on an Alaska Airlines flight to Anchorage.
There, Kali began a new life learning to live around human beings. Just two months ago, he was a rolly polly 18-pound white puff ball. He quickly won the hearts of his caretakers and received hundreds of visitors. As his popularity grew, so did he, more than tripling his weight. Today, Kali is a robust and healthy 65 pounds, and is fit and ready for his move.
Yesterday, Kali made his last appearance at the Alaska Zoo. This afternoon, he will depart on a 4,400-mile red-eye flight to upstate New York. After he arrives at the Buffalo Zoo, he will have a few days to acclimate to his new surroundings before he meets Luna, a female polar bear cub who was born in captivity.
It is not every day that UPS gets to deliver a polar bear. As a “VIP package,” Kali will travel by jet with an entourage of caregivers, first to Louisville, Kentucky for a brief layover. After changing planes, the cub will arrive in Buffalo early Wednesday morning. A veterinarian from the Buffalo Zoo will be by Kali’s side during the journey to his new home.
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