Twenty years ago, Axhi and Jim, two 6-month-old grizzly bears, made their debut at Brookfield Zoo. On Saturday, March 21, a big birthday is being planned for the two brothers, who were rescued from Admiralty Island, Alaska, after they were orphaned in the wild. Their rescue in 1995 was a collaborative effort among the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages the zoo; the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; and the residents of Angoon, Alaska.

During the celebration, guests are invited to sign a giant birthday card, located in the Great Bear Wilderness underwater viewing area. At 11:30 a.m. during a special Zoo Chat, guests can learn about Axhi and Jim’s journey to Brookfield Zoo, about how the animal care staff work with the bears to participate in their own medical examinations, and about conservation efforts to help the species in the wild. Afterwards, guests can sing a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” while watching the more than 900-pound grizzlies enjoy a nutritious birthday cake prepared by the animal care staff.

The public is also invited to take a selfie with the “Happy Birthday Jim and Axhi” sign that can be downloaded at and then share it by posting to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #JimAxhi20. Photos will be randomly selected and posted to Brookfield Zoo’s Instagram and Twitter accounts on March 21.

Since the bears’ arrival at Brookfield Zoo, millions of guests have seen the two brothers. Their presence has brought awareness of grizzly bears’ plight and recovery in North America. The biggest threats to grizzly bears are habitat loss due to development and logging, increasing conflict with humans, and poaching, the latter of which is what happened to Axhi and Jim’s mother back in 1995. Back then, a local hunter killed their mother while she searched for food with her cubs near a landfill on the outskirts of Angoon, a small fishing village. The two cubs wandered the wilderness for two weeks, evading human hunters and aggressive adult male bears. When residents learned of the cubs’ fate, they notified the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and one of its officials asked the Chicago Zoological Society for assistance.

Information submitted by Brookfield Zoo.