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.
Photo Credit: Tierpark Berlin
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.
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.
On the morning of November 27, zoo keepers arrived at Zoo Sauvage and heard the strong cries of a newborn cub coming from the Polar Bear den. Female Aisaqvak had given birth to a cub.
No Polar Bear had raised a cub at Zoo Sauvage since 2009, and the Polar Bear care team worked diligently to bring about another pregnancy. In 2011, a new adult male named Yellé arrived, and the team had high hopes that he and Aisaqvak would produce a cub. But despite the fact that the two Bears showed great interest in each other over several years, Aisaqvak did not become pregnant. A new male named Eddy arrived from the Aquarium du Québec in 2015, but over two seasons, he and Aisaqvak did not produce a cub. The staff decided to bring back Yellé in 2017, and breeding success was finally achieved in 2018.
Photo Credit: Zoo Sauvage
Why did Aisaqvak and Yellé produce a cub this year and not in previous years? No one knows for certain, but the staff is overjoyed at the baby’s birth. The cub is significant because it introduces new genetic material into the zoo-dwelling population of Polar Bears. Aisaqvak was born in the wild, and Yellé has never reproduced before.
Newborn Polar Bears are very tiny in comparison to their mothers. Babies weigh just over one pound, while Aisaqvak weighs 727 pounds. The cub’s chances of survival are still precarious. However, the team sees hopeful signs that Aisaqvak is taking excellent care of her newborn. In addition, closed-circuit cameras allow the staff to watch every move as Aisaqvak and the baby bond in their private den. They two will remain in the den for several months, which is how mother and baby Polar Bears behave in the wild. Cubs begin walking at about three months of age. The baby’s gender will not be known for several months.
Wild Polar Bear populations are decreasing, as are populations within zoos. Polar Bears are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2006, 364 Polar Bears resided in zoos worldwide. In 2015, only 298 Polar Bears lived in zoos. Wild Polar Bears face threats from warming seas and shrinking sea ice, which affect their ability to hunt and capture prey.
A rare baby Sun Bear delighted conservationists when she was born at Chester Zoo in June to parents who were rescued from illegal wildlife traders in Cambodia.
When they were just cubs themselves, mom Milli and dad Toni were taken from the Cambodian forest by poachers and were mistreated while kept as pets.
Photo Credit: Chester Zoo
After being discovered in very poor condition and nursed back to health by conservationists working for the Free The Bears organization in Cambodia, the duo was transferred to the United Kingdom, first to the Rare Species Conservation Centre in Kent and then to Chester Zoo to complete their recovery.
Now, despite their troubled start to life, Milli and Toni are parents of a healthy baby girl and zoo staff say the trio is doing well. Keepers chose the name Kyra, which means ‘sun goddess,’ for the cub.
Sun Bears are the smallest of the world’s eight species of Bear and are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Their demise is a result of widespread habitat loss to make way for palm oil plantations, human-wildlife conflict, hunting and the illegal wildlife trade.
Sun Bears are named for the yellow or orange crescent marking on their chest, which legend says resembles the rising or setting sun. The species is also known as the Honey Bear due to its love for honey, which it extracts from hives with its long tongue. They also feed on termites and ants, beetle larvae, bee larvae, honey and a large variety of fruit species, especially figs.
Tierpark Berlin’s new Spectacled Bear recently made his public debut. He was seen hesitantly following him mother and stepping tentatively through the grass.
After spending almost four months in the birthing den, twenty-year-old mother, Julia, is now happily spending time out in the fresh air with her new cub. Keepers say there is plenty for the youngster to explore in the large outdoor habitat, with its high rocks, climbing trees, and small hills.
“The cub seems quite confident,” said Bear Curator, Dr. Florian Sicks. “Young Spectacled Bears become increasingly independent from the age of three or four months and learn to climb early. That’s important in the wild, as they need to be able to clamber up trees to escape from predators.”
The climbing trees at Tierpark Berlin reach up to nine metres high, but young spectacled bears can easily scale even such dizzying heights.
“The new Spectacled Bear cub represents an important contribution to the global population of this bear species,” explains Zoo and Tierpark Director, Dr. Andreas Knieriem. “So I’m particularly pleased that the cub is developing so well.”
Photo Credits: Tierpark Berlin
The IUCN Red List classifies the Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) as “Vulnerable”. The main threat to their survival is habitat destruction caused by deforestation and conversion of land for agricultural use. Spectacled Bears that wander onto fields in search of food (either crops or domestic animals) are also often killed by their human rivals. Spectacled Bears are primarily herbivorous, but occasionally add protein to their diet in the form of insects, rodents, and sometimes, larger animals like domestic sheep.
Tierpark Berlin’s young Spectacled Bear was born on December 26, 2017. He is the seventh cub for mom, Julia, and the second offspring for father, Carlos. The new cub is currently unnamed, but if a sponsor is found, he or she will be able to work with the keepers to decide on a suitable name.
A total of 17 Spectacled Bear cubs have grown up at the Tierpark Berlin. Bear curator, Dr. Florian Sicks, has been the coordinator of the European Endangered Species Programme for the Spectacled Bear since October 2017. It is his job to keep the population of these bears in Europe as stable and healthy as possible. This great responsibility is only given to zoos and curators with a high level of expertise.
A baby Spectacled Bear born at Tierpark Berlin “bears” a striking resemblance to Paddington Bear. That’s because the much-loved children’s book character was based on this species, which is native to the Andes Mountains of South America.
Born on December 26, the male cub underwent his first medical exam on March 27. At the exam, the veterinary team confirmed his sex, implanted an ID chip, and gave the young Bear his first vaccinations. In just a few weeks, the cub – who is yet to be named – will join his mother Julia, age 20, and grandmother Puna, age 27, in the outdoor area of the Spectacled Bears’ habitat, where he is sure to win the hearts of Tierpark visitors.
Photo Credit: Tierpark Berlin
Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr. Andreas Knieriem is thrilled about the new arrival. “Welcoming new baby Bears is always a joyous occasion – especially when it means we are able to make a contribution to the survival of a threatened species,” he said.
Breeding of Spectacled Bears in Europe is managed by the European Endangered Species Programme for Spectacled Bears. The program acts as a kind of matchmaking service to pair males and females based on their genetic pedigree. This strategic breeding maintains a healthy, sustainable, and genetically diverse population in zoos.
Spectacled Bears have lived at Tierpark Berlin since 1956, just one year after the park opened. This is the seventh cub born to experienced mother Julia, but only the second cub sired by Carlos, age 21. It is the first Spectacled Bear born at Tierpark Berlin since 2013. A total of 17 Spectacled Bear cubs have grown up in the Tierpark. These Bears have contributed to safeguarding the global population of the threatened species by moving to new homes in countries as far away as Japan, Russia, and Argentina.
Spectacled Bears, also known as Andean Bears, live in the Andes Mountains, from Bolivia in the south to Venezuela in the north. The Bears live in a variety of habitats, from lowland rainforests to high-altitude grasslands at 15,000 feet above sea level.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Spectacled Bear as Vulnerable. The main threat to their survival is loss and fragmentation of habitat, caused by deforestation and conversion of land for agricultural use. Spectacled Bears that wander onto fields in search of food – either crops or domestic animals – are often killed by their human rivals. Spectacled Bears are primarily herbivorous, occasionally adding protein to their diet by eating insects, rodents, and sometimes larger animals, such as domestic sheep.
After months of cozying up with mom Tasha in the den, the Woodland Park Zoo’s 13-week-old Sloth Bear cubs took their first steps outdoors. The tiny adventurers explored all around, trying to climb on everything. The best perch of all? Mom's back!
Until now, fans have only been able to see the two male cubs via cameras installed in the maternity den.
Photo Credit: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo
“We’re very excited to see Tasha and her cubs out on exhibit,” said Pat Owen, animal care manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “The fact that they’ve started to go outside the maternity den and explore is a good indicator the cubs are healthy and thriving. At this time, the cubs and mom are still exploring and adjusting to their new surroundings. They will still have access to the off-view maternity den as they make this transition.”
The two male cubs, born December 27, 2017, are the offspring of 13-year-old mother Tasha and 17-year-old father Bhutan.
Sloth Bears are native to the lower elevations of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. There are currently less than 10,000 remaining in the wild. Their survival is challenged by fragmented populations, competition with other animals (particularly humans) for space and food, deforestation, and the illegal trade in Bear parts, which are used in traditional Asian medicines.
For more than 400 years, Sloth Bears were targeted for human exploitation to perform as “Dancing Bears;” in 2009, the last Dancing Bear in India was released. Woodland Park Zoo is a participant in the Sloth Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program under the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) that ensures genetic diversity and demographic stability among Sloth Bears in North American zoos. Prior to the birth of these cubs, Woodland Park Zoo had five Sloth Bear births; two sets of twins and one cub which did not survive.
Woodland Park Zoo supports Wildlife SOS in their Sloth Bear maternal and day denning research project focused on Sloth Bears in the wild and in zoos. The project aims to learn more about day dens (used by Sloth Bears as a place to rest in safety during daylight hours), and the maternal dens used to give birth to and raise cubs.
The first Andean Bear to be born in mainland Great Britain has emerged from its den at Chester Zoo.
The rare cub, which is yet to be sexed, arrived to parents Lima, age 5, and Bernardo, age 7, on January 11. After spending months snuggled away in its den, the cub has started to venture out and explore for the first time.
Photo Credit: Chester Zoo
Made famous in the UK through the classic children’s character Paddington Bear, the Andean Bear is the only Bear to inhabit South America. They are found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
The species is listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Conservation experts from the zoo say the birth of this cub is especially significant given how threatened the species is.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at the zoo, said, “The cub was tiny when it was born but Lima is doing a fantastic job, particularly given that she’s a first-time mum, and the cub is developing quickly. Lima is keeping her new charge close and she certainly has her paws full. But even though she’s not letting it stray too from her side, we can already see that her cub has a real playful side."
“This is a momentous breeding success for us. To become the first zoo in mainland Great Britain to ever breed the species is an amazing achievement,” Rowlands said.
Little is known about Andean Bears in the wild. Information learned from the zoo birth will aid conservationists working to protect these Bears in South America.
Population estimates for the species were last made a decade ago, placing wild numbers at just 20,000. Conservationists are convinced that the Bears' numbers have decreased further, but are unsure how many remain in the wild.
The main threat to the Andean Bear is habitat loss, with some 30% of the forests that contain sufficient food disappearing in the past 20 years. Hundreds of Bears are also illegally killed by farmers and business owners every year, largely to prevent them from raiding crops and livestock.
Chester Zoo works with scientists in Bolivia to study Bear-human conflict.
The male cub was born over the winter to mother, Nicole, and father, Bouba. Now weighing 25lbs, the yet-to-be-named cub is ready to venture into the zoo’s bear habitat with mom to start exploring.
Exhibit times will vary until the cub becomes fully acclimated to its outdoor exhibit.
Andean Bears are the only bear species native to South America. They are also known as “Spectacled Bears” due to the markings on their faces that sometimes resemble glasses. They have characteristically short faces and are relatively small in comparison to some other bear species. As adults, males weigh between 250-350 pounds, while adult females rarely exceed 200 pounds.
The Queens Zoo is breeding Andean Bears as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program designed to enhance the genetic viability and demographic stability of animal populations in zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
The cub’s sire, Bouba (age six), moved to Queens from a zoo in France to breed with Nicole (age four), who born at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC and arrived at the Queens Zoo in 2015. This is the first cub born to this pair. There are currently only 42 bears in AZA accredited zoos and only six potentially viable breeding pairs in the SSP population.
Queens Zoo Director and Animal Curator, Scott Silver, leads the national breeding program as the SSP coordinator. Silver said, “This is a significant birth for the Queens Zoo and the Andean Bear SSP breeding program. This little guy may be adorable, but more importantly he reminds us of what we stand to lose when a species is in danger of extinction. We are excited to introduce the cub to New York and to share the work WCS and our partners are doing to save Andean Bears and many other species in the wild.”
The pair was found trying to survive in the wild without their mother. “Although no one likes the tragic circumstances that lead to the cubs coming here to the Zoo, we are pleased that we can offer a permanent home to these sisters,” said Don Hutchinson, president and CEO of The Maryland Zoo. “They are being well cared for and we plan to do so for many, many years.”
Photo Credits: The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
The two female cubs originated on Confederated Salish (Say-lish) and Kootenai (Koot-nee) Tribal Lands in Montana. For several days, they were observed foraging by themselves with no mother in attendance. It became obvious that one cub was failing, and the decision was made by the tribal biologist to capture both cubs on Labor Day, September 5, 2016.
“The cubs were taken to a local veterinarian and upon examination, it was discovered that the smaller of the cubs had been shot,” said Dr. Ellen Bronson, senior veterinarian at the Zoo. “Luckily the wounds were not severe and the cub was able to be treated with antibiotics. The cubs, however, were starving having not quite learned how to forage for themselves at such a young age.”
They were moved to The Montana Wildlife Center, in Helena, which rehabilitates orphaned wildlife for the purpose of release back to the wild and is run by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP).
“Unfortunately, several weeks after their capture, the failing mother of the cubs was located with severe shotgun wounds to her face and was subsequently euthanized,” said Mike McClure, general curator at the Zoo. “DNA analysis was used to determine that this female grizzly was indeed the mother of the two cubs, who at the time were approximately six-months-old.”
Due to their age, they were not good candidates for rehabilitation and release to the wild, so in early November, Montana FWP put a request to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Bear Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) to assist with finding the cubs a permanent home.
“We learned of the cubs through the AZA Bear TAG and began to make inquiries about the possibility of bringing them to Baltimore,” continued McClure. “While we have not housed Grizzly Bears before, we do have experience with many of the extant species of bear, and staff agreed that we could definitely provide a good home for these two cubs.”
It was determined in late November that the zoo would be the home of the cubs, pending appropriate permits and approvals by zoo personnel. In mid-December, after the appropriate approvals and permits were obtained, Dr. Ellen Bronson and Mike McClure flew to Helena, Montana to complete a health check of the cubs and meet the transporter to prepare for the over-land travel from Helena to Baltimore. Due to severe weather in Montana, they were stranded in Helena for five days before the roads became clear enough to load the bears and begin the long drive to Baltimore. McClure and the bears had a 3-day trek back to Baltimore with the transporter. They arrived at the Zoo late in the evening of December 21, 2016.
The cubs were in quarantine for 30 days at the Zoo Hospital, after which time they were moved to the Polar Bear Watch exhibit to acclimate to their night quarters, the Animal Care staff and their outdoor yards. Just recently Zoo staff has been watching them from the public area to prepare them for their introduction to the public.
“The cubs are probably around 11-months-old and are on permanent loan from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks,” continued McClure. “They are very curious about their outdoor yard, and have spent a lot of time digging up the mulch, rolling in the grasses and exploring the pool. Essentially, they are bear cubs just being bear cubs, which is fascinating to watch. We hope everyone enjoys seeing them and learning about grizzly bears here at the Zoo.”
After 14 weeks snuggling with her mother in the birthing den, a big day arrived for a female Polar Bear cub at Munich Zoo Hellabrunn: The baby and mom Giovanna emerged from the den for the first time to explore their tundra habitat.
Everything is new and exciting for the cub, who, still somewhat unsteady on her feet, ventured out cautiously onto the grounds of the tundra enclosure. There was so much new to discover: every ray of sun, every blade of grass, and every stone had to be closely examined. Determined to explore everything, the little polar bear followed Giovanna's every step in this unknown world.
Photo Credits: Joerg Koch, Marc Mueller
After spending the last few months in the mothering den, Giovanna has used up almost all her fat reserves and as a result lost much weight, which is normal for Polar Bear mothers. Giovanna is gradually returning to her normal diet, and her cub is trying bits of solid food. The cub still drinks her mother’s milk, which will continue for two more years.
Zoo director Rasem Baban said, "In the last three months, Giovanna has shown herself to be an experienced and patient mother. It is a great joy to watch her show her cub the world outside the mothering den. The little one will discover more and more every day and become increasingly bolder."
The little cub, who is not yet named, is an ambassador for her species, which is under threat from shrinking sea ice. As ice in the Arctic diminishes, Polar Bears’ ability to hunt seals from the ice is impaired. Polar Bears are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.