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Local News Next Louisville

Another Polar Bear Cub Coming To Louisville Zoo

The Louisville Zoo is getting another polar bear cub for its Glacier Run exhibit.

Zoo director John Walczak says Siku, a 22 month old male cub, will arrive in Louisville early this fall from the Toledo, Ohio Zoo.

“Our hope is that in the not too distant future that Siku will become best friends with Qannik, our female cub that we helped rescue from the North Slope in Alaska. She was the female abandoned by her mom back in April. This is just creating a great future for Glazier Run and polar bears here in Louisville,” he said.

Walczak says it’s hoped that the two young polar bears can eventually be bred. Glacier Run is also home to an adult female polar bear and three grizzly bears.

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Local News Next Louisville

The Louisville Zoo’s Timmy the Gorilla Dies At 52

A Louisville Zoo gorilla has died at the age of 52.

Timmy, the oldest male western lowland gorilla in North America, was euthanized today after experiencing several years of medical problems, including heart disease and arthritis. The zoo’s veterinarian says Timmy had responded well to treatment for several months but began to decline in recent weeks.

Timmy was born in 1959 in the African nation of Cameroon and lived in the Cleveland and Bronx zoos before being moved to the Louisville Zoo’s Gorilla Forest in 2004.

Zoo officials say the average life expectancy for most male gorillas is early to mid 40s.

(Photo Courtesty of Lousviille Zoo)

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Local News

Polar Bear Cub Qannik Bound for Louisville Today

The polar bear cub Qannik (KEN-ick) is heading for Louisville today.  She was rescued in April by the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage after being separated from her family, and is now being adopted by the Louisville Zoo.

Louisville Zoo director John Walczak has been in Alaska with the Assistant Mammal Curator and Supervisor of Animal Training Jane Anne Franklin and veterinarian Dr. Zoli Gyimesi for a few days.  They have been working with the crews in Alaska getting to know Qannik and preparing her for her journey and her new home.

“Getting Qannik back and adjusted and healthy and just having a well socialized transfer is step number one, and out philosophy on all of this,” Walczak says “of course all along is whatever is best for Qannik is most important.”

Many zoos stopped harboring polar bears because of the high cost, but Walczak says polar bears may need more assistance as global climate change progresses. She will join a 26-year-old polar bear named Arki as well as a family of three grizzly bears in the new Glacier Run exhibit.

“Part of the plan was always to be able to help support the population in zoos but certainly the remnant wild population as well,” says Walczak “and  now here we are the exhibit has been open two months and I never would have dreamed that we could have helped the remnant wild population so early in the history of Glacier Run.”

Qannik will be brought back to Louisville in a UPS Boeing 747 scheduled to leave today on a direct flight back to Louisville. Mayor Greg Fischer first asked UPS to aid in the transport of Qannik, and Walczak says they have not only been masterminds of logistics in planning this trip but they are also providing the service as a donation.

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Local News

Zoo Meets Goal For Glacier Run Fundraising

The Louisville Zoo’s fundraising campaign for the Glacier Run exhibit is over due to last-minute donations that helped the zoo secure a matching grant.

In the fall of 2008, the Kresge Foundation promised to donate $900 thousand if the zoo could raise about $8 million by the end of this year.

Director John Walzack says as of last month, the zoo was still several hundred thousand dollars short of that goal.

“These are certainly trying economic times, but we had faith and we are so overwhelmed by the generosity of our community that we just always had a positive outlook that were going to meet this goal,” he says.

Humana and the Ogle Foundation gave two large donations to top off the campaign. The money will go toward two exhibits within Glacier Run, both of which will open in 2012. The polar bear exhibit will open this spring.

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Local News Next Louisville

Work Continues On Zoo Polar Bear Exhibit

The Louisville Zoo continues work on the next phase of Glacier Run, the Arctic themed exhibit that will feature polar bears, sea lions, and Amur Tigers. Visitors will be able to observe the animals in a mock-up of a Canadian mining town, complete with a gold mine and a general store. A timber walkway above the town’s main street will allow polar bears to amble right over the heads of spectators.

On the outskirts of the town, huge walls of ice and stone are rising into the sky. These cliffs have been constructed out of concrete and rebar by the Cemrock Company of Tucson, AZ, which also built the zoo’s award winning Gorilla Forest exhibit. Cemrock artists have labored to give the concrete life-like details such as lichen and stress fractures.

The sea lion enclosure at Glacier Run opened on June 30. Zoo officials hope to open the polar bear enclosure in early 2011.

(Story and photos by WFPL intern Simon Levine)

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Local News

Zoo Director Hopes To Expand Elephant Exhibit

The director of the Louisville Zoo says he hopes the zoo can resume its breeding program that produced Scotty the Elephant.

It was just over two months ago that thtree year old Scotty died of complications from colic. Scotty was the first elephant born at the zoo and in Kentucky.

Speaking on WFPL’s State of Affairs program Monday, zoo director John Walczak said Scotty’s mother, Mikki, is a viable candidate for another pregnancy.

“We’re looking at a bunch of different options, because we want to remain committed to elephant conservation. We hope to really grow the program and someday we have plans to have a new elephant exhibit just like we’re talking about a new polar bear exhibit, so down the road we want to do more and more to try to help the species,” he said.

Walczak also said the zoo is looking at the possibility of reopening its popular miniature train ride. It’s been closed since June of last year, when it crashed, sending 22 people to the hospital.

State investigators blamed the wreck on excessive speed, an inadequate braking system and driver inexperience. The zoo was fined $37,000. Walczak says the zoo has since hired a safety consultant to inspect all of its amusements.

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State of Affairs

What's New at the Louisville Zoo?

It seems like there is always something happening at the Louisville Zoo; fun, new exhibits, birthday parties for animals, various contests, interactive 4-D films. But this past year has seen some difficult times as well, with the report on the train wreck released, the maiming of a baby gorilla and the death of Scotty the elephant. It’s time to catch up with them and see what else they’ve been up to. Join our conversation with Louisville Zoo director John Walczak on Monday, when we will also talk about the newest additions to the zoo and remember the ones who have left us.

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Local News Next Louisville

Louisville Zoo Opens New Seal, Sea Lion Habitat

By Rick Howlett

The Louisville Zoo’s newest exhibit is now open to the public.

Officials held a dedication ceremony Wednesday for the Seal and Sea Lion Habitat.

Zoo Director John Walczak says the habitat is currently home to one seal and four sea lions but will be able to accomodate 14 of the animals.

“(It has a) 108-thousand gallon pool, salt water, ozonated, 62 degrees–no you cannot jump in.   But (it’s) a great place to see seals and sea lions and tell a great story,” he said.

The exhibit is part of the zoo’s larger Glacier Run project that is being opened in phases.

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Local News

Louisville Zoo's Injured Baby Gorilla Will be Moved to Columbus

by Stephanie Crosby

The baby gorilla who was severely injured at the Louisville Zoo in April is recovering well but she must be moved to a zoo in Ohio to complete her recovery. Recently named Misha, the three-month-old suffered serious injuries, including the amputation of part of her left leg, in a family skirmish in the Gorilla Forest.

Curator Steve Wing says she wasn’t recovering well while still in her mother’s care, so they had to hand-raise the baby. That decision has led to another problem.

“Once we did that, her mother’s milk would dry up,” says Wing. “So we started looking at our options, and the best option for her to grow up to be a gorilla and know how to act and react to gorilla society would be for her to be raised by gorillas.”

Wing says Misha will be moved to the Columbus Zoo, which has developed an extensive gorilla surrogacy program. He says there are two adult female gorillas there that are trained to recognize when the baby is hungry, and deliver her to zoo staff for regular feedings.

Wing expects Misha will live a full life there.

“She has proven to be very adaptable. Primates are very adaptable,” says Wing. “And I think she’s going to grow up and not even realize, maybe, that she’s missing a leg. There are primates out in zoos and out in the wild that adapt perfectly well with three limbs.”

Wing says no date has been set for Misha’s move to Columbus, but it could come in the next week.

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Local News

Community, Zoo Staff Mourn the Loss of Scotty

by Stephanie Crosby

Life goes on at the Louisville Zoo, though director John Walczak says the loss of three-year-old elephant Scotty has been hard on employees there. Scotty was euthanized last night after a week-long gastrointestinal illness.

Walczak says Scotty was beloved by the community and by his keepers, and his loss has been difficult to deal with.

“It’s a very sad time,” says Walczak. “They’re professionals, but this is a devastating setback, but they’re all in there right now, doing their jobs, and doing it very professionally, but it’s been very hard. We’re concerned and we’re taking care of each other to get through this.”

Walczak says they’re setting up a memorial outside the zoo’s offices where people can leave notes and drawings of Scotty. They’re also accepting donations that will be given to elephant conservation, and they’ve put a memorial on the zoo’s Facebook page.