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Kali the polar bear gets first-class treatment on trip to St. Louis

How do you move an 850-pound polar bear from Buffalo to St. Louis?

FedEx, of course.

Kali – the orphaned polar bear from the Buffalo Zoo – was delivered safely Tuesday to his posh new home at the St. Louis Zoo courtesy of the express shipping service, which donated the transportation.

A polar bear, after all, isn’t your typical package.

Kali’s daylong journey began in the early morning hours Tuesday when zoo staff from Buffalo and St. Louis carted him off to the Greater Rochester International Airport to catch an 8 a.m. flight on a FedEx cargo plane.

Kali’s 1,000-pound aluminum crate was loaded behind the cockpit, where two zoo staffers from St. Louis and one from Buffalo ensured the bear had a comfortable flight.

The temperature on the plane was kept at a cool 55 degrees.

“We were able to access Kali during the entire flight – check on him, offer him water,” said Steve Bircher, curator of mammals and carnivores at the St. Louis Zoo.

The plane landed at FedEx headquarters at Memphis International Airport, where Kali’s crate – which resembles an oversized dog kennel – was loaded into the back of a temperature-controlled cargo truck.

His zoo companions followed behind in a vehicle and monitored Kali via closed-circuit camera during the five-hour drive to St. Louis.

Around 5 p.m., Kali arrived at his new residence: A 40,000-square-foot habitat that offers visitors a viewing room, where the bear can move right up to the glass to greet guests.

Kali – who came to the Buffalo Zoo as cub in 2013 after his mother was shot by a hunter in Alaska – makes his public debut in St. Louis on June 6.

“Kali is doing great,” Bircher said. “He’s in quarantine to get acclimated to his new environment.”

“I wanted to say thank you to the Buffalo Zoo for taking such good care of Kali for the last two and a half years,” he added. “We are thrilled to have him in St. Louis.”

Bircher thanked FedEx, too. Although, it’s not the first time the shipping service has made such a special delivery.

In February, FedEx flew a 300-pound northern fur seal from Seattle to its new home at the New England Aquarium in Boston, said Katie Wassmer, a FedEx spokeswoman.

It also transported two giant pandas from China to the Toronto Zoo in 2013.

“FedEx has established an expertise in moving endangered or rescued animals,” Wassmer said.

email: jrey@buffnews.com