From timid fluff ball to master diver, Taku the polar bear made a big splash at the Zoo.
  • 1940s

Taku was the first polar bear born at the Zoo. He arrived to great fanfare in 1942, born in an off-exhibit bedroom where he and his mother spent the first few weeks until he was strong enough to explore the world outside. Problem was, he didn’t like it much at first. As the keepers described it, his mother carried him into the exhibit and set him down, and he turned tail and headed back for the bedroom!

But she wanted a long soak in the deep, cool pool. She looked at him, as he whined to return, then back at the pool. The pool won. She slid in, completely immersed herself, and floated on her back. Ahhhhh. This was apparently the worst thing that had ever occurred as far as Taku was concerned. He dashed toward the pool, but backed away from the splashing water. He ran back and forth along the edge, crying to his mother. When she came to the edge to reassure him, he even tried pulling at her neck with his little teeth to get her out! Eventually she relented, and they went back to the bedroom, probably to Taku’s immense relief.

It took Taku a couple of weeks and lots of coaxing from his mother before he apparently decided that she wasn’t in any danger from the pool. But he still wouldn’t go in; he’d just parade around the edge. Finally, his mother unceremoniously picked him up and took him in, wriggling all the way. And it wasn’t so bad! In fact, true to his polar bear spirit, it quickly became his favorite place. Then it was his mother’s turn to be worried: he’d choose the highest spot on the rim to dive from! He even planned his dives just so that he could land on top of her and try to dunk her. Zoo visitors loved watching his daredevil dives and all his playful antics as he grew up.

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