Tuesday, 5 April 2011
polar bear plunge at San Diego Zoo
The largest of our polar bears, Kalluk is both handsome and impressive to look at. He plays with and throws anything he can get his paws on. He often wears enrichment items like burlap sacks on his head. He came to San Diego with his sister, Tatqiq, in March 2001. Kalluk means “thunder.
Tatqiq is our creative thinker. She is always the first to make up new games with enrichment items. Her favorite pastime is bird watching—or catching! She uses her charm and wit to boss around her much-larger brother. Tatqiq means “moon".
Chinook is the leader of our trio. Her confidence and playful spirit endear her to both Kalluk and Tatqiq. Her enthusiasm for working with her keepers makes her a valuable member in our quest for knowledge about polar bears. Chinook means “wind.”
At first thought, a polar bear in sunny San Diego seems curiously out of place. But at the San Diego Zoo, you’ll discover that polar bears are right at home and every day is an Arctic summer day. The focal point of the newly remodeled Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge is, naturally, the pool. From the underwater viewing room you can see how agile and playful these Arctic bruins really are. In fact, they’re known to swim right up to the glass to check out all the humans on display.
Our three adult polar bears are Kalluk and Tatqiq, a brother-and-sister pair, and Chinook. Outdoor viewing follows the water level up to the beach area. A large sandbox and open spaces on the banks of the Plunge also allow the bears to dig around or maybe take a nap—just like they would in the wild.
Outdoor viewing follows the water level up to the beach area, where two large pits filled with natural substrate and mulch allow the bears to dig around or take a nap—just like they would in the wild. At the new Experience Wall, keepers open up the glass panels and interact with a polar bear through a mesh barrier as you stand just feet away. We’re thrilled to be able to offer this unique connection between humans and polar bears—it’s one you won’t find in any other U.S. Zoo.
Other new interactive elements include:
- Storybooks: Get the scoop on polar bears from these supersize illustrated storybooks. Children can read the stories and turn the big pages.
- Measure Up: Compare your height to our life-size polar bear statues, see how many people it takes to weigh the same as an adult polar bear, and check the refrigerators to see how much humans eat compared to polar bears.
- Snow Den: Crawl into a polar bear den to see how mother polar bears raise their cubs, then pop your head up through ice holes like a ringed seal, the polar bear’s prey.
- Research Helicopter: Find out how conservation researchers study polar bears in the Arctic, and climb into the seat of a real research helicopter.
- It’s Melting: See 4-D models of the Arctic ice from 1989 and 2007 to see what’s happening to the polar bear’s habitat. Play the ice floe game by hopping from one floe to another along the ground to see if you can get to food.
- Carbon Graph: Find out what recorded carbon dioxide levels have been historically and compare them to where they are today. Discover what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint to make a difference.
We hope that by exploring the polar bear, its lifestyle, and conservation challenges through the new elements at Polar Bear Plunge, visitors will become more aware of the impact of their daily choices and empowered to make changes that will benefit them and wildlife around the world.