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Famous polar bear departs for her new life in Osaka

By The Siberian Times reporter
26 March 2015

Shilka became a global star last year in her pen in Novosibirsk but now she is set to be big in Japan after bid to keep her in Russia fails.

Shilka was flown to Moscow and then on to Tokyo before finally arriving in Osaka, either on Friday or Saturday. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

The first polar bear born in Siberia in 40 years has left her home for a new life in Japan after a failed bid to convince zoo officials to keep her in Russia. Shilka became a global star last year after melting the hearts of animal lovers in a series of cute pictures as she cuddled into her mother as a tiny cub.

She even became a celebrity status symbol for the city of Novosibirsk, where she was born, and there was disappointment at news she would be exiled to the other side of the world.

Thousands of people had launched an online campaign to prevent the famous cub being sent abroad, even though the zoo needed 110 million roubles ($1.6m) to keep her. But the bid failed and on Wednesday she left her pen on her journey to Osaka Tennoji Zoo.

Oksana Kalinina, a visitor to the zoo, said a truck with a special container arrived at her cage at 3pm and loaded her on to take her to the airport. She was flown to Moscow and then on to Tokyo before finally arriving in Osaka, either on Friday or Saturday.

Back in April, we introduced you to Gerda tenderly cradling her three month old cub in magical pictures from Novosibirsk Zoo. 

Back in April, we introduced you to Gerda tenderly cradling her three month old cub in magical pictures from Novosibirsk Zoo. 


Relax, you are in Siberia


Relax, you are in Siberia


Relax, you are in Siberia


Relax, you are in Siberia


Shilka the bear


Shilka the bear

Shilka was born at Novosibirsk Zoo in December last year, and quickly became a star. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

Denis Gurtskikh, an activist who has been following Shilka's fate, said: 'She arrived in Moscow OK and tomorrow will fly to Tokyo. She has been examined by zoologists and veterinarians and everything is OK.'

Despite speculation on a Japanese online forum about the bear's arrival date, officials at Novosibirsk Zoo said they were unable to confirm when she would land.

Evgenia Pirozhkova, a zoo representative, said: 'We have a little problem with the aircraft therefore I cannot say exactly if she will arrive on 27 or 28 March in Osaka.

'So far only small planes have been flying to Moscow so it is difficult to arrange her transportation as her cage is too big. So we are waiting for confirmation from the airlines.'

Shilka was born at Novosibirsk Zoo in December 2013, and quickly became a star. By the age of just 11 months she was already 1.3metres tall and had been separated from her mother, Gerda, in preparation for a new solo life. The separation clearly had an impact on heartbroken Gerda, who walked around her pen looking for her cub.

Shilka grown up


Shilka grown up


Shilka grown up

By the age of just 11 months she was already 1.3metres tall and had been separated from her mother, Gerda. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

When it emerged Shilka could be leaving Siberia, thousands put pressure on the zoo director to stop the move. They even pledged to somehow find the 110 million roubles necessary to keep her in Novosibirsk.

The campaign's website stated: 'Shilka grew to become a calling card of Novosibirsk Zoo and she is a symbol, not only of our zoo but of the whole country. People from all over the world have watched her grow.

'We haven't had polar bear cubs for 40 years, and we don't want to give this very first one away. Little Shilka is like a mascot for our zoo.'

The issue facing the zoo, however, was the massive cost it would take to keep Shilka in Siberia. Novosibirsk Zoo director Rostislav Shilo said it would have required a new aviary with swimming pool for her and said at the time the financial situation was 'not good now'.

Campaigners who had wanted the bear to stay in Russia are now calling for a webcam to be set up in the cage of her new home, to allow people to watch her grow up.

Comments (1)

Very sad to hear this news, I sure hope the Japanese zoo will treat her very well and secure a good life with enough space for her to grow up :(
Maria, Hong Kong
30/03/2015 13:08
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