5/15/2013 1:37:55 PM

Siku and Smilla

By Valerie Abbott

Every Monday through Saturday my alarm goes off and I eagerly await the morning. On Mondays, I get to go photograph polar bear(s) at my local zoo. On Tuesdays, while some of you are hurriedly on your way to work, I am sitting back with my orange juice and joystick ready to follow two polar bears around. I get to crank up my computer (yes, at times it seems like my computer has a crank) and follow two very special bears around for a couple hours.

I am speaking of Siku and Smilla, of course, whose antics from the Scandinavian Wildlife Park are keeping us all amused on the Siku Cam.

When first contacted about running the cam, I wasn't really sure who Siku was. I had heard about him but had never actually seen him. Well, within the first few days I was hooked on this little guy! He would roam his enclosure nibbling on a treat here and there. Next thing I knew he would bolt (quickly run) off screen into his pond where he joyfully splashed and played.

For me the best days were when there was snow. Siku being a polar bear gives me an idea that these were his favorite days as well. He seemed to have just slightly more spring in his step. I loved watching him first lower his head, keeping that adorable bum (rear end) in the air, and then slowly sliding into the prone position. When he looked up you could see the snow on his nose and snout. Just about one of the cutest sights ever.

As the days went by and I felt more comfortable with the cams and exhibit layout I tried bolder moves. I would try an extreme zoom so we could all get an up close and personal view. I think he must have been watching ME because every time I would do this the little fur ball would get up and sprint away.

Siku soon discovered Smilla, the bear next door, and started spending a lot of time at the fence getting to know her. He seemed to spend more and more time making her acquaintance, even going down the dreaded run much more often ("dreaded run" to us because it's out of cam range).

Then the news spread that Siku was getting an expanded exhibit and that he would have a playmate soon. I was very happy and anxious about this. Happy that he was getting another bear to interact with, but a little anxious about running a new cam and getting comfortable again with everything. I also wondered how the two bears would get along.

An odd thing happened that first day ... I didn't have time to worry, the two bears happily interacted with each other, having such a great time that before I knew it the shift was over. I was left sitting there wondering where the time had gone.

As those of you that watch Siku and Smilla every day know it is a joy to see these two interact. Whether it be in the "new" deeper pond, where you can watch diving polar bears leave their paws suspended above the water, or the old pond that must have a treasure trove of enrichment items at the bottom, you know you are in for a day that will provide many smiles.

Recently Siku has been approaching Smilla more. He will try to sneak up on her, usually to no avail. She knows when he's coming and chases him away. He will also do his "bucking bronco" act to get her attention. Just recently she started letting him get close and there have been some extremely tender bonding moments. They jaw, greet, smell, and rub snouts, which is a testament to the wonderful work the people at the Scandinavian Wildlife Park do.

I look forward to each morning to see what treasures I can find and share with the world. In doing this I hope I can bring many more people into the conversation of sustainability, recycling and reusing, and preserving the planet not only for these magnificent animals but also for the children that will inherit this earth.

One of my favorite quotes is "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little." - Edmund Burke

I am doing my little, what about you?

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