A day of remembrance and celebration at the Alaska Zoo

Published: Jan. 20, 2018 at 2:27 PM AKST
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A birthday celebration while honoring the life of a beloved polar bear, Saturday was a bittersweet day for many at the Alaska Zoo.

"A few minutes ago I was out at the habitat and there is this adult lady going through the memories of when Ahpun first came in and talking about coming and seeing her as a little kid and coming and watching her for the past 20 years," Patrick Lampi, Executive Director of the Alaska Zoo said.

Traditionally, the Zoo holds a polar bear birthday celebration in January because this is the time of year they're born, according to Lampi.

This year was different, after a heartbreaking discovery on New Year's Eve.

Lampi said he had expected Ahpun to live several more years,"some polar bears live into their early forties," he said.

Ahpun came to the Alaska Zoo in early 1998, after a resident of Point Lay brought her in as a tiny cub. "Millions of people have gotten to enjoy and learn about polar bears, she participated in research projects, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the USGS all to help the wild counterparts."

Lampi said condolence messages have come from as far away as Germany.

The zoo's remaining polar bear, Lyutyik, who also goes by the nickname Louis, spent the afternoon enjoying enrichment treats and ice cakes.

Lampi said Lyutyik is like so many of the zoo's visitors, "he was raised for many years with his sister and then he came here.I know he really liked the companionship of other bears. I’m sure he is missing her."