One of Siku's main caregivers, Janne, is sending us regular updates on the polar bear cub that was hand-raised at the Scandinavian Wildlife Park in Denmark after his mother failed to produce milk. You can watch him on the Siku Cam daily. Here is her latest report:
Siku is now almost 1 year and 5 months and weighs 164 kg.
We’ve been working all winter to turn half of Siku’s enclosure into an exhibit so that people can come and see Siku in his teenage room when the park opens. Last week it was finally ready, so we could remove the fence and let him explore the whole enclosure.
The new exhibit is actually the same enclosure that Siku started in last year, but he has gotten a whole new and much deeper pond (so the lucky bear now has two!) and we’ve made a dry moat and a viewing area for the public. Guests who come to Scandinavian Wildlife Park will be able to see Siku playing, swimming, and running right in front of their eyes without looking through glass or fences.
When you see the enclosure now on the Siku Cam, there is no grass in it. But that’s only because the winter has been very long here in Denmark. We had the first day of warmer weather yesterday and have planted the grass, but are just waiting for the sun to do its magic.
Another big thing has happened as well. Siku has met another polar bear!
Throughout Siku’s whole life, we’ve been working very hard to make sure that he becomes a completely normal polar bear, with the ability to live with other polar bears even though he was hand-raised. We figured that he would be big enough to do that when he was about two years old, so, until now, we’ve only let him meet the other polar bears with a fence between them. He’s been doing that for the past year, and the polar bear that he has had most contact with is an older female named Smilla. She came to us a couple of years ago from a very different kind of zoo, so she needed a bit of time to get used to the big open spaces and also to fact that we have much more grass than concrete. That took a couple of weeks, but we never succeeded in introducing her to any of the other adult bears—she was just too scared of them, and even though they didn’t hurt her, she was just not calm in the same enclosure as them. But Siku is much smaller and not so scary to Smilla, so they’ve been having a lot of contact through the fence.
The last couple of months we’ve been noticing that they seemed quite fond of each other. They would sit on each side of the gate between their enclosures, touching noses and sometimes sleeping fairly close to each other. Seeing that Siku was actually almost her size (Smilla is only about 200 kg and Siku is 163 kg) we decided that it was time for them to meet without the fence.
We opened the gate and let Smilla come into Siku’s new enclosure. Smilla was first very curious of the changes we’ve made, going after the different scents from people who had been there. Siku on the other hand was very curious about Smilla. When he first saw her he started to circle where she was exploring, moving in closer and closer. It was very fun to see him first working up the courage to approach her and then losing it when he got halfway there, turning around and running for a few meters, only to start approaching again. After five minutes of that, he also went back to exploring and they were both very calm. Siku even started playing in the water with Smilla close by, not something he would have done if he were worried about the other bear.
Since then they’ve been in the same enclosure every day for about half the day and it’s going so well. We’ve seen Siku playing in the water, with Smilla standing by the side of the pond watching. They can even sleep when they’re in the same enclosure. Smilla seems like she’s taking Siku under her wings, keeping a bit of an eye out for him.
We will keep letting them meet every day and hope they will be able to live together 24/7.
Siku’s younger siblings are also doing really well. We still don’t know the sex of them. The mother Ilka is very protective, and now they are so big that we can’t check them without sedating them, which we won’t do until they are a lot bigger.
The other day we let them out in to the big enclosure, where they will live all summer. They loved as much as Siku did the times he has visited, and they even tried out the big lake. Guests will be able to see them playing with their mother Ilka in this enclosure all summer. It’s going to be a great season!
You may also have heard that Siku now has two younger siblings and that this time their mother is taking care of them all by herself, thanks to medication that stimulated her milk production. They are now 11 weeks old and are doing so well. If you want to follow the twins, go to Scandinavian Wildlife Park's Facebook profile here. To watch Siku and Smilla on the Siku Cam, visit them here.