My dates with Katjuscha in September 2020

Nov 16th, 2020 | By | Category: Ralph's reports

16.11.2020 by Ralph Morton

Between 18 and 22 September I was able to spend my mornings with Katjuscha in Berlin Zoo. She will be 36  years old tomorrow (16th of November) and is the oldest Polar Bear in a European Zoo. Despite Covid 19 I had to see her again.

I have been visiting Katjuscha since 2007 and she has a special place in my heart. I normally rely on the wonderful photos taken by a few photographers with professional equipment. But for this report I am sharing clips taken from my mobile phone.

Katjuscha has always liked the entrance to her den. She often sleeps for hours there, with just the white blur of her head showing.

When all four Polar Bears (Lars, Tosca and Nancy as well) were fed at the same time each morning, Kati would stand up in her doorway. She still does this.

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Kati would then emerge and stand like a wild Polar Bear waiting for a seal to pop up from a hole. Even though there are no longer regular feeding times, Kati will often still stand and wait. On most days she will check out her enclosure for an hour or so before going in again.

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On Saturday I was delighted to see Katjuscha had gone into the water. She was enjoying standing and enjoying the cool water, so much that her eyes shut.

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Once she starts to swim, Kati looks like a young bear. Water is after all her natural element. She came close enough to the viewing glass to get a nice head shot.

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Kati always draws a crowd when she is in the water, but I was still able to get these shots of her, which show how beautiful she is.

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Kati does not just go in the water to keep cool. The enclosure walls are covered in tempting plants. Kati is always hungry and like all Polar Bears will find food wherever and whenever she can.

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The water goes all the way round, and Kati is soon swimming like a wild Polar. The little island has special appeal for Kati as a place to have a good rub.

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Once she is back on land Kati goes to her favourite spot.

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Kati likes to look closely at her visitors. Then she settles down in the mulch bed which she took time getting used to but now loves.

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On my last day, Tuesday, I was delighted to find Kati in the water again.

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On both days Kati spent a lot of time grazing on the plants on the walls of her enclosure.

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Despite her age Kati still shoots up out of the water to get as high up the wall as she can.

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These photos show Kati really stretching up the rock face to get at a tasty plant. For a 36 year old bear she can still move when food is around.

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I was reminded of the scene in the Disney film of The Jungle Book where Baloo the bear rubs himself. If you remember the song, Kati was humming it too. 🙂

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When I was in lockdown from March to June I wondered if I would get to see Kati again. Seeing her swimming like a wild Polar Bear was my reward for getting to Berlin.

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After more than an hour in the water Kati left the water.

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I was fortunate to be able to talk for a long time to Marcus Roebke, the keeper who has really taken an interest in Kati. He had even got her to do klicker training and showed me his pictures of doing the same with Volodya.

He believed that Kati was much happier now she was on her own and had the whole enclosure to herself. Certainly she always looks relaxed as she does her rounds.

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My friend Molly Merrow did a beautiful tribute to the Berlin Zoo ladies in 2014.

Katjuscha, Nancy and Tosca – three polar bear ladies

Katjuscha was 30 then. The following year I made my first visit to the zoo since 2011 in order to say goodbye to Kati because I was not sure if I would see her again.

Ralph und Monika bei den Berliner Eisbären (2015)

As I took my leave of Kati, snoozing in the warm Autumn sunshine, I hoped to see her again in Devember to celebrate her 36th birthday. Sadly Covid 19 has had the last laugh. Locked down again I can only join in by using the Internet. But after so many years, Kati is always with me.

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9 comments
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  1. Lieber Ralph,

    das ist ein feiner Eintrag für unser liebes Geburtstagskind und auch mein Lieblingseisbärchen! Auch hier bei dir wünsche ich ihr nur Gutes und Schönes,vorallem weiterhin gute Gesundheit! Und herzlichste Gratulation!
    Ich konnte sie im Mai und im Oktober besuchen und hoffe nun wieder aufs FrĂĽhjahr.Lass dirs gut gehen,gutes Katilein,denke heute besonders an dich!

    Dankeschön und liebe Grüße von Brigitte.

  2. Hello Raph

    How nice, that you could visit Kati in summer.
    She looks very nice and is swimming with
    pleasure. Kati loves to eat the vine leaves.
    Marcus Röbke did a very good job with
    Katjuscha. I remember, that she was
    ill and behind the scenes some
    years ago – and now shes the
    oldest polar bear in Europe.
    What a marvelous story !

    Greetings
    Chris

  3. Dear Ralph!
    It is wonderful that you met Katjuscha in September. She was in the good shape and in the good mood.
    Hugs
    Ludmila

  4. Dear Ralph!
    I´m happy for you that you managed to visit Kati despite f… Corona!
    Your special photos show that she was in a good mood and gave all to entertain you.
    Surely you had a good time at the enclosure.
    I´m sorry for you that your plans for travelling can not be realized in times of covid 19.
    Hopefully you will see her again next year!

    Hugs
    Anke

  5. Lieber Ralph,

    dein frĂĽher Besuch im Herbst war eine gute Idee, denn den Geburtstag musste die Grande Dame mit den wenigen Berliner Fans feiern, weil Corona deine erneute Reise leider verhindert hat.

    Im Herbst war sie auch gut in Form und konnte sogar eine Stunde im Wasser verweilen, das ist ebenso erstaunlich wie ihre Geschicklichkeit beim Verzehr des Weinlaubs, wobei sie sich schon sehr strecken muss.

    Danke für deine wieder fein beschriebenen Beobachtungen deiner Lieblingsbärin, der auch ich sehr herzlich zu
    ihrem Geburtstag gratuliere und weiterhin bestmögliche Gesundheit wünsche.

    Herzliche GrĂĽĂźe
    Britta-Gudrun

  6. I know Kati is your favorite, so it was especially nice that you could spend so much time with her. She is doing very well for a an elderly lady. I hope that she has a nice birthday and gets some special treats to celebrate. Who know? Maybe next spring or summer you will be able to visit again, and she will swim for you again. And I hope I will meet her again next year.

  7. Dear Ralph,

    You certainly picked the perfect time to visit the zoos in Germany! I’m glad you could spend so much ‘quality time’ with Katjuscha.

    The Grand Old Lady is still going strong which, of course, makes me very happy. Kati has been with us from the beginning and she’s the only one left of the oldies.

    Thank you so much for sharing your impressions and feelings with the readers of this magazine!

    Hugs from Mervi

  8. Thank you very much dear Ralph.
    Happy birthday dear Kati. We love you very much and we wish you all the best.

  9. dear Ralph,
    thank you so much for your nice report and for all these wonderful pictures of our dear Katjuscha, It was great that you could visit Kati in September.So good to see, that Kati had joy in her pool. Kati sleeping in the autumn sunshine is so touching
    many good wishes to you and dear greetings
    Filomena