Operation Snowflake has landed. Qannik, an orphaned polar bear cub, arrived at her new home in the Louisville Zoo on Wednesday after a carefully coordinated journey from her native Alaska.
Qannik flew overnight from Anchorage, Alaska, after being found alone and malnourished on Alaska's North Slope in April. Qannik, pronounced “Ken’ick,” means “snowflake” in the Inupiat language and is the name of the area where she was first spotted.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rescued the cub after it was discovered that she had been abandoned.
"She came in at 15 pounds. She probably should've been at least 30 pounds at that time,” said Alaska Zoo curator Patrick Lampi.
Operation Snowflake took about two months to plan and involved the Alaska Zoo, Louisville Zoo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Polar Bears International and UPS. The UPS crew in charge of flying Qannik to her new home was specially trained, according to Courier-Journal.com. Then a special flight path was devised, making sure to fly over cities with zoo veterinarians in case of an emergency.
Animal protection and conservationists settled on the newly opened Glacier Run polar bear habitat in the Louisville Zoo as Qannik's new home. The habitat boasts plenty of play space and a chilled pool for swimming.
The cub now weighs 67 pounds and subsists on a diet of milk fattened with whipped cream and commercially made polar bear nuggets. She is currently being kept in quarantine but will soon be available for public viewing and will eventually share her habitat with another cub.