How Louisville’s polar bear is helping save her species

Glacier Run’s star polar bear Qannik brings some much needed genetic diversity to the breeding population of captive polar bears.

Qannik the polar bear in the snow at the Louisville Zoo

Qannik celebrated her 13th birthday in January.

Photo by the Louisville Zoo

The Louisville Zoo’s star polar bear Qannik could soon play an important role in the conservation of her species.

Qannik came to the Louisville Zoo in 2011 after being found separated from her mother in the far north of Alaska. Qannik’s wild-born origins make her an important player in the fight to save polar bears, which are classified as a vulnerable species .

Qannik the polar bear emerges from the water at the Louisville Zoo

Qannik is one of just 26,000 polar bears left in the world.

Photo by the Louisville Zoo

There are only about 300 polar bears in captivity worldwide, and according to the zoo, “Qannik’s genes are not represented anywhere within the zoo population.”

The Louisville Zoo welcomed a new polar bear earlier this month, a male named Borealis, as part of a national cooperative breeding program. Unlike Qannik, “Bo” was born at the Toledo Zoo to parents also born in captivity.

It remains to be seen whether Qannik and Bo will parent any polar bear cubs, but if they do they’re certain to be just as cute as Qannik was when she came to Louisville from Alaska more than a decade ago.