Nikita practicing to leave Kansas City on FedEx plane - KCTV5

Nikita practicing to leave Kansas City on FedEx plane

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

The day of departure is close at hand, and Nikita is unknowingly practicing to leave the Kansas City Zoo.

For about three months now, the zoo staff has been coaxing Nikita into a 1,000-pound steel mesh cage.

Andrea O'Daniels, an animal supervisor at the Kansas City zoo, said Nikita goes into the cage once or twice a day. Zookeepers use hamburger meat, fish and lard, which is Nikita's favorite, to get him comfy in the cage.

O'Daniels said the goal is make going into the cage routine and not upsetting to the 1,200-pound polar bear.

Upsetting to Nikita's fans is knowing that sometime in early January the cage will be covered with plywood and he will be put on a FedEx plane for a flight to his new home in North Carolina.

The sting of departure is partially elevated by knowing that Nikita is going east in hopes of siring new cubs.

There will be one final party this weekend when the zoo will allow Nikita to roll around in three tons of ice at noon on Saturday and Sunday. This will be his last weekend in Kansas City.

After that, zookeepers have warned fans that he may leave at anytime for the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.

Berlin, the zoo's 26-year-old female, will remain behind. She will no longer have to fear Nikita's overwhelming presence and zookeepers expect her to paddle ballerina-like more in the deep pool with his departure.

In late 2012, Berlin came to Kansas City after her zoo in northern Minnesota was flooded that summer.

She and Nikita mated in 2013 and 2014, but it wasn't a love match. No cubs came from the union.

Zoo officials have decided that Berlin is too old to have cubs. Nikita is in the prime of his fertility so he's going to North Carolina where he will mate with Anana, who happens to be Berlin's niece.

Anana was born in 1999 and is 16 years old. Her father, Yukon, was Berlin's twin. He had four cubs including Anana and her twin Lee, who is at the Denver zoo.

Anana was the polar bear at Chicago's Lincoln Park. Lee is the only male polar bear that Anana has ever lived with so she's never mated with a male bear. The Chicago zoo is building a new polar bear exhibit, which will open in 2016, so Anana moved from the Windy City to North Carolina in 2014. Click here to read more and see pictures of Anana from the Chicago zoo. The North Carolina zoo unfortunately doesn't have any information about Anana on its website.

Anana weighs about 700 pounds and enjoys swimming like Nikita does. Nikita, of course, is known for churning through the water for hours at the Kansas City Zoo.

Nikita is being moved because the hope is he will sire cubs. His mother was born in the wild so genetically he is considered a prized bear. He is technically owned by the Toledo Zoo where his parents remain.

A zookeeper and vet from North Carolina will travel with him in January. A zookeeper from Kansas City will meet him in North Carolina and remain for several days to help him settle in.

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