Luna and Kali, the Buffalo Zoo’s two polar bear cubs, appeared to be having too much fun playing or gnawing on things to notice the throngs of people who came to watch them Monday when they went on public view together for the first time.
Luna, who was born in the zoo and has been on exhibit since March, and Kali, the cub orphaned in Alaska after his mother was killed by a hunter, frolicked in their new surroundings, which until now had been home to the zoo’s spectacled bear. Kali arrived in Buffalo almost three weeks ago.
“We drove from Rochester today just to see them,” said Jennifer Craft, who was there with her husband, David. “We heard about the bear’s journey from Alaska. I’m so happy the zoo took both of them on so they could be here together.”
“We’re here to adopt the polar bear so we are going to give the zoo some money today,” she added.
The zoo is trying to raise $4 million to build the Arctic Edge exhibit, which will include a new enclosure for polar bears. The fundraising campaign has garnered $1 million in its first three months; $3 million is needed by the end of July if the project is to remain on schedule and allow for construction to start after Labor Day.
Joshua Norman, who was there with his wife, Cass, and 19-month-old daughter, Miah, was enthralled by the bears.
“It’s amazing just to see such natural animals in captivity. They’re just so beautiful, just their youth and playful nature. Just amazing,” Norman said.
The crowd that formed early on was big enough that the zoo used stanchions to form a viewing line. Park volunteers occasionally asked the polar bear-gazers to speed up a little so more people could view them. The bears will continue to be on display from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.
The transition for both bears has been a fairly easy one, said Donna Fernandes, the zoo president.
“Kali was really not exposed to other animals until he came here, so he was much more nervous to be introduced to her than she was to him. She was very excited to meet him from the first time she saw him. But now they seem to be fine, and he’s quite comfortable with her,” Fernandes said.
“They’re together, then they’re apart. Luna’s a little more comfortable on exhibit just because she’s spent more time doing so.”
Kali, who is about a month younger than Luna, has caught up to her in weight, with both tipping the scales at more than 90 pounds. Male polar bears grow to be larger than females, Fernandes said. Their fur color sets them apart, with Luna’s appearing pure white and Kali’s having an off-white color.