CHICAGO - Meet Siku, the Lincoln Park Zoo's new polar bear. We got a very up close and personal look at this giant creature from the arctic. Two or three times a day, Siku and trainer Dana Hunter meet like this - separated by just a very strong steel grate.
"We're doing a great training session with our male polar bear Siku. He's nine feet tall and a thousand pounds and it's quite a show," said Mark Kamhout, curator of mammals.
This isn't about training Siku to bounce a beach ball on his nose; this is about his health. It's not easy for trainers to get close to a dangerous animals like this, so with this nose-to-nose contact, he is getting a daily doctor's visit.
"When I'm looking at his ear making sure there's no wound or anything that's visible. I'm looking at his eyes to make sure they're the right color, they're bright, every thing's OK," Hunter said.
The brand-new Walter Family Arctic Tundra just opened a few weeks ago and already it's a big hit. That's mainly because trainers here say Siku is a big ham. He likes to put on a show.
"Polar bears are very engaging animals. They like to learn. So he's learning, working with Dana. And also the behaviors that allow us to take better care of him," Kamhout said.
He eats 15 to 20 pounds of food a day and it doesn't seem to matter what's offered.
"Ground beef, fish," Kamhout said.
"His favorite is peanut butter," Hunter said.
You have probably noticed that Siku is without a mate. But don't worry about it, because we hear he is on polar bear Match.com.
"You could say that because we will probably have a new female here with a matter of months and then some new cubs shortly after that," Kamhout said.
Once the daily once-over is done, it's back in the pool to have a ball.