A tiny Polar Bear cub born at Tierpark Berlin has passed an important milestone and is now just over two weeks old.
Born on December 1 to mother Tonja, the little Bear spends its days snuggled in a private den and tucked against mom’s warm furry body.
The zoo’s curator, Dr. Florian Sick, keeps close tabs on the newborn. Modern camera technology allows Dr. Sick to check on mom and baby in the maternity den from his smart phone at any moment of the day. This allows the staff to observe but not disturb the Polar Bears.
From his observations, Dr. Sick notes that the baby nurses about 11 times each 24-hour period. He is hopeful that the baby will be strong enough to survive, but cautions that the mortality rate for young Polar Bears is very high. In the wild, about 85% of Polar Bears do not survive past their second birthday.
Read the baby Polar Bear's birth announcement on ZooBorns.
Polar Bears are generally born in late fall or early winter. Moms and babies remain in the maternity den for several months, and don’t emerge until spring. Tonja makes occasional trips outdoors to drink fresh water, but she does not eat and returns to her cub after just a few minutes. She lives off the thick layer of fat she accumulated last spring and summer. Males are not involved in rearing their young.
Polar Bears face numerous threats in the wild, including climate change, which results in starvation due to habitat loss. Polar Bears hunt their prey – usually Seals – from platforms of floating sea ice. As ocean temperatures rise, sea ice has diminished, and Polar Bears must swim farther off shore to reach the remaining ice. The long swims deplete the Polar Bears’ caloric reserves, making it less likely that they will survive. They cannot hunt in open water.
Polar Bears are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.