LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A polar bear cub abandoned by her mother in Alaska has arrived at a Kentucky zoo, her new home in the balmy South.
The 5-month-old cub named Qannik was rescued in April when she was spotted alone in an oil field.
Qannik, which means snowflake, arrived in Louisville just before 1 a.m. Tuesday aboard a UPS jet.
"It's bittersweet when a cub is abandoned by her mom, but it's great that we're here to help Qannik have a great life," Louisville Zoo director John Walczak said Tuesday.
Once her flight took off from Alaska Monday, the cub settled down and took a nap, Walczak said.
Qannik will remain out of public view to give her time to adjust to her new surroundings and let the staff and veterinarians get acquainted with her.
Wildlife officials decided Louisville's zoo would be an ideal home for Qannik, partly because the zoo's new Glacier Run exhibit, modeled after polar bear hotspot Churchill, Canada, would eventually be welcoming another young polar bear.
Alaska Zoo director Pat Lampi said in LouisvilleTuesday that Qannik was "dramatically underweight," when she first arrived at the Alaska Zoo in April, but now she's up to about 70 pounds. She has been eating salmon fillets, bananas, rice and a special formula, Lampi said.
After Qannik, her sister and their mother were first captured in April, researchers placed a radio collar on the mother and tags on the cubs' ears and released them. More than a week later the cub was spotted again, this time alone. Two days later she was seen again, still alone, on a ConocoPhillips drilling pad. Wildlife officials concluded the cub had no chance of surviving on her own. She was captured April 29 and flown to Anchorage that night.
Qannik's mother was later found on sea ice roughly 30 miles from where the cub was found. Wildlife officials considered reuniting the bears, which are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. They ultimately decided against it.
Zoo officials in Louisville said Qannik's progress would determine when she could be introduced to the public.