Aurora and Nikita first arrived at the Toronto Zoo in the early spring of 2001. They were found as orphans, wandering around together in Polar Bear Provincial Park near James Bay, in Northern Ontario. It is estimated that they were born the previous December and they had recently emerged from their den with their mother to forage, only to have her shot by a hunter.
The first time I ever saw Kenora I don’t recall any special feelings towards it. Well, as I discovered on my next trip to Kenora 33 years later, the problem was that we approached it from the wrong direction: from the east.
I knew at the time (because I was told at the time) that this was a very special thing to witness; a rarity that is considered very fortunate to see among the First Nations people. But I honestly had no concept of how rare it truly was.
The drive-through portion of Parc Safari features only herbivores and no meat-eaters of any kind. This made the experience rather like being on a farm, or perhaps an exotic petting zoo.
When I drive into the Zoo’s parking lot, I patiently wait for them to cross the road. Sometimes I lean out the window and say, “You guys do realize you can fly, right?” but that’s just a running joke between us. When I exit my car and head into the Zoo proper, I find myself always saying “hello” to the nearest geese. And I worry about them in the winter; not to the point where I have ever fed them myself – I stop short of that – but on the bitterly cold days I do keep an eye out to see if any are particularly struggling.
Her name. Well, because she was born on November 11th, which is Remembrance Day here in Canada, the vets and techs in the Health Centre gave her a nickname they thought appropriate for the date. And, unlike with the nicknames that had been given to her older brothers, the Zoo decided that this time there would be no naming contest and just went ahead and made her name official. And that is how she came to be called…
On September 16, 2015 my friends Karen, Tom, and I were just that lucky and happened upon a rather industrious Ward, out in his pond area, enthusiastically going to town on a fresh log that the Keepers had put in the exhibit for him and/or his sister.