Nikita left the Kansas City Zoo Wednesday morning and arrived at his new home in North Carolina Wednesday evening.
The 9-year-old polar bear left Kansas City International Airport on a FedEx flight just before 8 a.m. An hour later, he touched down at Memphis International where FedEx is based.
He was kept in holding there before he boarded a flight for Greensboro's airport. His flight touched down just after 5 p.m. Kansas City time. His new home is now the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, N.C.
A vet and zookeeper from Asheboro joined Nikita on his flight, which was a regularly scheduled FedEx flight from KCI. A zookeeper from Kansas City was traveling separately and expected to spend a couple of days helping Nikita get settled into his new home.
The two from the North Carolina zoo came to Kansas City over the weekend to get to know Nikita, his personality and habits. During his goodbye party, Nikita showed off the skills he knows like standing on command so zookeepers can make sure all looks well with him.
Berlin, a 26-year-old female bear, remains behind. Without Nikita's overwhelming presence, she appeared to leisurely enjoy exploring the Polar Bear Passage Wednesday. She spent time slowly floating around the pool. She enthusiastically dug a new hole in the sandy pit that was Nikita's favorite place to snooze.
Berlin and Nikita mated in 2013 and 2014, but it wasn't a love match. No cubs came from the union, and Berlin is too old now to have cubs.
Nikita is in the prime of his fertility. His father and grandfather have been known for their virality. Nikita's father, Marty, has fathered six cubs including Nikita. In November, Nikita's half sister gave birth to a cub at a zoo in Columbus, OH. Zookeepers are hand raising the female cub after her mother abandoned her.
Nikita was born at the zoo in Toledo, OH. He moved to Kansas City five years ago.
In a statement, Kansas City zoo officials said they are glad they had a chance to hosted Nikita.
"He is no doubt a bear that makes people people laugh and smile. At his new home we are positive he will continue to be a crowd pleaser and be the polar-bear sized ambassador for conservation," the zoo said.
The Association of Zoos and Aquarium's Polar Bear Species Survival Plan decided to send Nikita to the North Carolina zoo 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.
Asheboro zoo officials say Anana is a polar bear diva who has a stubborn streak. She doesn't like to share her toys so zookeepers are excited to see how her and Nikita connect after he is cleared from quarantine.
Kansas City zookeepers are eager to see Berlin's personality blossom. In recent months, the zoo had kept the two bears separated. Nikita, the zoo's rock star, was given exclusive run of the public portion of the exhibit on the weekends.
"Berlin will have full reign of Polar Bear Passage," zoo officials said Wednesday. "As she has already proven today during her three-hour swim, she is now polar bear queen."
In late 2012, Berlin came to Kansas City after her zoo in northern Minnesota flooded that summer.
She is known by zookeepers as a sweetheart who is eager to interact with zookeepers, but does have a feisty personality. Berlin prefers to sleep at night on a soft bed made out of fire hoses rather than straw or outside on the ground where Nikita typically slept.
Nikita swam with a boisterous style that churned water around him. Berlin swims like a ballerina with small gliding strokes.
Some upset Nikita fans have wondered why Berlin wasn't sent elsewhere. Berlin remains in good health other than some joint issues, but national zoo leaders didn't want to risk an upsetting move that could affect her adversely.
Coldlilocks is the oldest bear in captivity in the United States. She celebrated her 35th birthday at a zoo in Philadelphia last month.
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