This Saturday is a special day at the Alaska Zoo. Each year, we throw an honorary birthday event for the zoo’s polar bears. While it may not be their actual birthdays, many wild polar bears give birth to tiny cubs in their dens right at this time of year. It is a cause for celebration!
And no party is complete without treats and cake. We are lucky to have a new partnership for this year’s event, which will be held Saturday, January 19th at the Alaska Zoo from 11am to 1pm. Copper River Seafoods has joined forces with the zoo to make this the best Polar Bear Birthday event ever!
In looking at pictures from past birthday party events, the staff at Copper River Seafoods noticed the snow cakes and colored ice blocks. Zookeepers, zoo educators and volunteers have always pooled efforts to prepare and unveil these creations at the party events each year. The bears always enjoy climbing on them, tearing them apart and finding the hidden treats inside.
These photos of the bears enjoying their treats inspired Copper River Seafoods staff to get involved in the 2019 party event. We sent zoo photographer John Gomes on assignment to document the artistic process and logistics behind a team at Copper River Seafoods who decided to make two items for this year’s party - an ice fish and an ice cake.
When John arrived at Copper River Seafoods, he was asked to don the proper sanitary gear before going inside - a lab coat, hair net and even a mustache guard. He was escorted inside the processing area to document how staff were constructing these masterpieces.
There are about six people working on the ice blocks which will make up the fish and cake. In total, 48 blocks of ice will be frozen with most to be used making the ice fish. The remaining blocks will be used to build the cake. Tasty fish treats are frozen inside of each block including salmon, halibut, herring, sardines and produce provided by zoo staff. A colorful cake is a must, so layers of colored water are frozen over days. The first layer is frozen, followed by a layer of fish and produce, then another layer of water. This process is repeated until each block is complete.
Of the 48 blocks being frozen, the ice fish will take 35 of the blocks. It will be huge, roughly 14 feet long by 5 feet tall. The cake will be smaller and made up of multiple colors, roughly 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall. And for the cake topper? A halibut tail adorning the top!
Meanwhile, back at the Alaska Zoo, we are in the process of getting Cranbeary and Lyutyik used to each other since Cranbeary’s arrival in late 2018. They are not living together in the same habitat yet, but we are working toward that goal slowly. Cranbeary was recently given access to the main outdoor yard on Tuesday, January 15th and she will alternate time outdoors with Lyutyik until the staff feel a face-to-face introduction is safe. While both bears will hopefully get to check out this event enrichment, it likely won’t be at the same time. It is up to zoo staff and the bears as to how they are doing.
We hope to have a crowd for this fun event, starting at 11am this Saturday, January 19th. The zoo opens at 10am, so we suggest arriving before 10:30am to give yourself time to go to the polar bear exhibit. The fun will commence at 11am!
We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the hard-working staff at Copper River Seafoods. Their inspiration to build these enrichment treats for the bears will truly make this the best Polar Bear Birthday Party ever!