One of the newest babies at Denmark’s zoo is capturing hearts all over the world thanks to an un-bear-ably cute Internet video. Siku may even fill the giant paw prints Knut, another orphaned polar bear, left behind when he died at the age of 4.
Siku (born 22 November, 2011) is a male polar bear cub, born in November 2011. After his mother failed to produce enough milk for his survival, he was taken into care in the Scandinavian Wildlife Park in Denmark.
In terms of popular appeal, he is considered to be a possible successor to the polar bear Knut, who attracted worldwide attention at Berlin Zoo from 2006 until his death in 2011. A YouTube video showing Siku at one month old attracted hundreds of thousands of hits in just twenty-four hours and he was hailed internationally as an online sensation.
Siku’s mother, Ilka, had no milk in her breasts for the third year running, and so the park decided to “immobilize” her. According to park manager Frank Vigh-Larsen, Siku weighed three pounds (1.8 kg) at birth, but grew within his first month to seven pounds’ (3.2 kg) weight.
Receiving insufficient milk from Ilka, Siku was revealed on surveillance video inside the bear cave to be “moaning and being unruly all the time. At two days old, he was removed from his mother, as remaining with her could have endangered his life.
His mother’s defaulting on milk orphaned him, so that he required foster care, a type of ex-situ conservation.
Still blind and deaf at one month old, Siku has to be bottle-fed. He was put into care at the Scandinavian Wildlife Park in Kolind, 105 miles northwest of Copenhagen, a privately-owned zoo housing animals native to Scandinavia including wolves, brown bears, and reindeer. There, three zookeepers will hand-rear him, providing 24-hour foster care to the tiny cub until he reaches a year old.
For the moment, Vigh-Larsen is giving Siku 24-hour care in his own apartment at the zoo, with two more people expected to assist in New Year 2012. Vigh-Larsen was quoted as saying, “He likes to be very social between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. In the first week he slept in his crate, but now he refuses to sleep in there and (instead) sleeps in bed with me.
Full integration of Siku is expected to take two years. In spring 2012, Siku will be re-introduced to the zoo’s five adult polar bears, including his mother, Ilka.