Meet the New Knut

First Coast News: The Louisville Zoo will soon be home to an orphaned polar bear cub that received national attention when she was found on Alaska's North Slope in April by employees of ConocoPhillips.

The 5-month-old Qannik (pronounced Ken'ick) is scheduled to arrive by the end of June and will remain off exhibit for some time to adjust to her surroundings in the new Glacier Run development, zoo officials said. Qannik means "snowflake" in the Inupiat language and it is also the name of the oil field where she was found.

The cub's journey from the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage to Louisville has been dubbed "Operation Snowflake." It is the product of a two-month collaboration among the Alaska Zoo and Louisville Zoo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Polar Bears International and UPS.

"It was determined the best placement for this little cub would be Louisville, where both her physical and psychological needs could be met," said Dr. Randi Meyerson, the coordinator of the Polar Bear Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Qannik was born in January in a snow den. She was first spotted on Alaska's North Slope in February with her mother and sibling. Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey placed a radio monitoring collar on the mother and were tracking her and the two cubs before the collar slipped off. In late April, Qannik was spotted again, this time alone.

An unsuccessful aerial search was conducted to locate the mother. It is unknown why Qannik was separated from her mother and sibling but eventually the cub was again sighted near the ConocoPhillips site where she was rescued.

Countless hours of planning have gone in to preparing for Qannik's trip from the Alaska Zoo to Louisville. Qannik will be traveling in the next few days with a special team of curators and caretakers from both the zoos in Louisville and Anchorage. The bear will be flown on a UPS Boeing 747-400.

Glacier Run is now home to Arki, a 26 year-old polar bear who came to Louisville from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, and a family of three grizzly bears.

Meanwhile, Louisville Zoo officials on Wednesday confirmed the birth of a female giraffe born early Monday morning. She weighed 140 pounds and is about 5-foot-10. Mariah is her mother and Walker is her father. She does not have a name yet. Officials said they aren't sure when the young giraffe will go on exhibit. The zoo now has three male and three female giraffes.


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