Orphaned polar bear headed to St. Louis Zoo

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - It’s official: a young polar bear named Kali (pronounced “Cully”) is headed to the St. Louis Zoo.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved Kali’s transfer Monday night.

It’s a big deal that this polar bear is coming to St. Louis.  Since they’re endangered, polar bears can’t just be taken from the wild, unless they’re orphaned, like Kali was.

About two years ago, a hunter shot and killed Kali’s mother in Alaska, not realizing she was nursing.  The hunter found the cub, and handed him over to wildlife experts.  Kali ended up in the Alaska Zoo, and then the Buffalo Zoo.  Now, he’s 2 and a half years old, and about 850 pounds.

He’ll soon be transferred from Buffalo to the brand new McDonnell Polar Bear Point in St. Louis.  The 40,000 square foot, $16 million habitat is almost finished.  It will include a deep pool with underwater viewing, plus a splash pool, and rocks, boulders, grass and fallen trees for Kali to play.  It’s more than twice the size of the old polar bear pits, which were built roughly a century ago.

Inside the new Polar Bear Point, it will just be Kali for now, but the exhibit was built for a family, up to 5 polar bears.

The St. Louis Zoo hasn’t had polar bears since 2009.

Steve Bircher, St. Louis Zoo Curator of Mammals, says Kali will bring a lot to the zoo, and not just entertainment.  He explains, “When they see the polar bear, we want people to understand and to learn about what’s happening to their environment in the wild. The fact that sea ice is declining, it’s because of climate change, and our behavior that affects that.”

Kali will come to St. Louis within the next few weeks, accompanied by some of the Buffalo Zoo staff, to help him acclimate.

The polar bear will be introduced to the public on June 6th, when Polar Bear Point officially opens.

More information and photos of Kali