LINCOLN PARK — Siku debuts at Lincoln Park Zoo on Thursday.
The zoo has scheduled a ceremony for 10 a.m. to unveil its new $15 million Arctic Tundra exhibit and, not coincidentally, its new resident, a 9-foot-tall, 1,000-pound playful polar bear named Siku.
At a media preview last week, Mark Kamhout, curator of mammals at the zoo, said Siku "likes having fun" and has "a great disposition and is very playful."
He's already put that on display romping with floatation balls in the exhibit's dive pool.
The zoo went two years without a polar bear while the exhibit was being reconstructed after 14-year-old Anana was sent to the North Carolina Zoo in the summer of 2014. Siku, who turns 7 next month, came from the Louisville Zoo after he was born at the Toledo Zoo.
His name means "ice" in the language of Alaska's Inupiaq people.
The zoo expects to add a female polar bear this winter and begin a breeding program according to the Polar Bear Species Survival Plan. It's had good results with a similar program producing a pair of litters of red pandas over the last two years.
About two-thirds of the 11,000-square-foot exhibit is outdoors, extending around the corner from the old polar bear exhibit to where regular zoo visitors might recall the spectacled bears used to be. The exhibit can be divided to allow a mother and cubs to be on their own apart from Siku.
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) is expected to attend Thursday's ceremony.
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