Qannik’s birthday story

Jan 11th, 2021 | By | Category: Lead articles

12.1.2021 by Molly Merrrow

Louisville Zoo keepers put together a colorful and fun donut-themed party to celebrate wildborn polar bear Qannik’s tenth birthday on January 9, the day before her official assigned birthday of January 10. Since she was born in the wild, no one knows her exact birthday.

keepers pickle

The birthday party, which is an annual event at the zoo, was not generally publicized so most of those present were local media and zoo staff. I went with my friend Carol. Everyone was wearing masks, as they should be. Zoo Director John Walczak said a few words and then we all sang Happy Birthday as Qannik raced down the ramp into the midst of the party treats.

qannik tree

qannick sign

qannik bite

The keepers had used her favorite flavors: peanut butter, blue berry and pumpkin, to decorate toys to look like donuts with frosting and sprinkles. There was also a leftover Christmas tree festooned with cardboard donuts (with peanut butter), and sliced apples. She had some nice flavored ice treats too.

qannik donuts

qannik feet

Her big birthday present was a giant pickle. She had one before, but the grizzly bears got hold of it and pretty much destroyed it, so now she has a new one. Don’t let Inga, Rita or Otis near the new pickle! 🙂

keeper pickle place

qannik walk

It was ten years ago that Qannik was born in a den in an oilfield in the North Slope in Northern Alaska. She and her mother and sister had been tagged and then released. A terrible snowstorm separated the family, and Qannik was found alone, weighing just 13 pounds, and taken to the Alaska Zoo to gain strength. In late June of 2011 she was flown to the Louisville Zoo, where keepers continued to nurture her and help her grow into a beautiful adult polar bear at Glacier Run.

qannik stand

Since she was raised by hand, she is very attuned to people, and loves to sit and pose for photos, and play with the children through the glass.

qannik ice

A new male polar bear, Lee, came to the zoo in late summer, in great secrecy, and it was just recently announced publicly. The Columbus Zoo needed room since Aurora has a year old cub and Anana is currently in her den, maybe with another cub. Lee cannot yet be seen by the public in Louisville.

qannik face

qannik sprinkles

No doubt Lee and Qannik have seen and smelled each other in the underground area that is behind the scenes where their bedrooms are located. They will not be put together because Qannik is property of Fish and Wildlife, and is not authorized to breed. Lee is the father of Kulu, the cub at the Columbus Zoo.

qannik paper

Qannik is very happy to just be by herself, however. And now she has a new pickle. Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

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  1. Dear Molly and Mervi
    Thank you for bringing us up to date with the story of Qannik. It seems only yesterday that we were following her blog on how she had been rescued.
    The birthday party took a lot of work but the happy expression on Qannik’s face was a reward for the keepers.

  2. Dear Molly,

    What a wonderful surprise you brought to the readers of this magazine! Now that most zoos are closed a report like this is a real SCOOP!

    I remember when Qannik came to Alaska and we all fell in love with the sweetie so it’s great to meet her again.

    I’m always glad when I see how the keepers arrange nice birthdays for their beloved animals. The keepers in Louisville Zoo have done a fantastic job making those funny toys – and some of them were eatable, too! 🙂 – I hope she can have her pickle safe from Inga, Rita or Otis. 🙂

    Our cute tiny cubbie has become a most beautiful polar bear lady! My belated happy birthday greetings to you!

    Thank you so much for this charming report!

    Hugs from Mervi

  3. Liebe Mervi,
    liebe Molly,

    Qannik ist eine zierliche Bärin und sieht nicht aus wie ein 10jähriger Bär.
    Ihre Geburtstagsgeschenke sind bombastisch.
    Als Handaufzucht ist sie sehr menschenbezogen und liebt offenbar auch das Fotoshooting
    und agieren mit Kindern an der Glasscheibe, das kommt uns allen sehr bekannt vor, nicht wahr?

    Molly, vielen Dank fĂĽr deinen ausfĂĽhrlichen Bericht!

    Herzliche GrĂĽĂźe

  4. Dear Molly and Mervi!
    Thank you for the report about Quannik’s birthday. She got many wonderful toys on this day.
    I am afraid Quannik and Lee would not come together.

  5. Dear Molly and Mervi!
    I can still remember little Qannik and how much she charmed us all with her playfulness when she was still in Alaska.
    She really is very petite for a ten-year-old bear and seems to be the female counterpart to our Knut.
    Knut also loved the contact with his visitors, especially children.

    I am happy for Qannik that her birthday is being celebrated, although the exact date is not known, and that she has been pampered from top to toe by her keepers.

    Thank you for this beautiful report and the fabulous photos!


  6. Thank you very much dear Molly.
    Happy birthday dear Qannik. We love you.

  7. Thank you very much, dear Mervi and Molly Merrow.

    Of course, I remember very well sweet QANNIK. It’s such a joy to meet her here again!

    Additional joy is it to see – beside our main protagonist – also her obviously ‘caring for and loving her
    keepers/keepresses’ (WITH masks 🙂 ) and the lovely stuff they brought QANNIK to spoil her for her birthday.

    Lots of toys, including this huge cucumber* and a fir/Christmastree garnished with certainly tempting scents on the decoration or even eatable rings.

    – – –

    * Do you remember when RETTA did send us a parcel for one of our ‘KNUT-meetings at Joe’s
    . with those little cucumbers obviously meaning something to the US-people around Christmas . . . ?
    . . . . . . . Das WĂĽhlen in meinen Archiven war wieder ergiebig.
    So habe ich auch zur obigen Frage Erinnerndes gefunden und zu einer COLLAGE ‘verwurstet’:


  8. Dear Molly

    They have made a wonderful birthday party for Quannik.
    So many yummy gifts and new toys – the keepers have
    outdone themselves. Thank you for the nice photos !


  9. Dear Quannik

    I would also like to wish you a happy birthday.
    You had a great party and the giant pickle is a super great toy. But don’t let the grizzlies play there.

    My best wishes for you and your team.
    Thank you, dear Molly!


  10. Happy Birthday, Quannik!

    Hugs, Erika