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Polar bear Kali leaving Buffalo for St. Louis

File photo

The Buffalo Zoo is saying goodbye to Kali, one of two young polar bears who have called Buffalo home over the last few years, and welcoming another one back.Kali was rescued in Alaska following her mother's death and came to the Buffalo Zoo in May of 2013 to join Luna, a young female cub born at the Zoo the previous November. Kali will be heading to the Saint Louis Zoo at the end of the month to be part of a new arctic exhibit.

Buffalo Zoo President and CEO Donna Fernandes says it's a move her staff knew would one day come.

"He belongs to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. From the very beginning, it was stated by [them] that they think St. Louis would be a good place," she said Tuesday.

“Keeping the bears together for the first 2 ½ years of their life was important to their social and psychological development, but now they have reached the age where they would be separating from their mothers and siblings if in the wild,” said Fernandes.

Meanwhile, Luna's mother Anana, who has been on loan to a zoo in Chicago, is expected to return to Buffalo later this spring. But Fernandes says patrons should not expect an emotional reunion.

"Luna is of the age where she would have left her mother, even if she had stayed Anana. They don't stay together," she said.

Work on the Buffalo Zoo's new $14 million Arctic Edge exhibit is expected to be completed later this spring, though Anana and Luna will not be moved into their new space until shortly after Labor Day.