As the saying goes, “No news is good news” – and this applies to the Polar Bear den at Tierpark Berlin. The tiny infant born there on December 1 remains peacefully tucked away in the maternity den with its mother Tonja, and spends its days nursing and cuddling with mom.
The zoo staff is taking a hands-off approach to the new cub, allowing Tonja to care for her baby just as wild Polar Bears do. Mothers and cubs spend several months in their den, emerging in the spring. The staff, including curator Dr. Florian Sick, uses remote camera technology to observe mom and baby every hour. "Based on the video images, I can see that the offspring has become really mischievous over the holidays. The little bear is also getting more and more active,” explains Dr. Sick.
Baby Polar Bears have a high mortality rate – in the wild, up to 85% of Polar Bears do not survive past two years of age. Dr. Sick cautions that although the cub is thriving so far, the outlook for its survival is still precarious. But for now, the zookeepers celebrate every gram that the little Polar Bear gains.
In about a month, Dr. Sick expects that the staff will have a chance to conduct a hands-on examination of the cub. By that time, Tonja will start leaving her baby in the den for short periods while she eats and drinks outdoors. While Tonja is out of the den, zookeepers can quickly weigh and examine the infant.
It’s hard for the keepers to wait to meet the cub in person, especially when they see adorable images of the baby on the remote cameras. But all agree on one wish for the new year – a healthy, active baby Polar Bear.
Wild Polar Bears face many threats, including diminishing sea ice which limits their ability to hunt. Many scientists believe that climate change is the root cause of Polar Bears’ clouded future.