PORTAGE - It was a big day for one bear at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC). Two-year-old Taquka is a Kodiak brown bear cub and now he’s moving to Sweden.
Wednesday was his last day performing for visitors at his Alaska home.
“It's kind of like sending a member of the family away. We've been working with him and he's provided tremendous educational opportunities for our staff as well as all of our visitors, who come through the wildlife center. We're sad to send him away but we're thrilled he's going to a new home where they'll take good care of him,” said Ethan Tyler with AWCC.
Getting a bear overseas is a big undertaking. The conservation center has sent more than a dozen bears to Mexico and the Lower 48, but never before to Europe.
“There's really no opportunities to ship a wild bear from any ecosystem into captivity in Europe. There's been a lot of restrictions and a lot of things with that. But it's really to serve as a demonstration on how healthy management and ecosystems all come together with conservation,” said Development Director Steve Mendive.
The health and safety of the bear is the top priority. Staff members gave Taquka a light sedative before they moved him into a custom-made crate.
“I think it's with a heavy heart for the staff to see him go, but we're happy to help Fish and Game and the center with the project,” said Mendive.
Taquka’s caregivers bade farewell as the bear began the first leg of his journey to his new home, leaving behind the wild woods of the Last Frontier.
He wasn’t supposed to make this journey alone though. His companion, Shaggy, escaped from AWCC in April and hasn’t been seen since.
Taquka will arrive in Stockholm, Sweden on Thursday then moved to the Orsa Zoo. He’ll be debuted to the public there on June 19.