Berlin Zoo

Zoo Berlin’s Baby Gorilla Has A Name – And Is Now Helping Raise Funds For A New Home

Tilla Needs A Villa

All over Germany, from Berlin to Bonn and from Breisgau to Buxtehude, people have spent the past few weeks coming up with suitable names for Zoo Berlin’s newborn female gorilla. Many media outlets got involved in the name search, as news of Berlin’s first gorilla baby in 16 years spread throughout the region, the nation – and even the rest of the world. It’s no wonder, then, that Zoo Berlin received more than 17,000 name suggestions within seven days – 15,000 via social media channels alone. Many of the ideas made reference to the current situation, including “Hope” and “Covi”. There was even a suggestion to name her “Frau Merkel” after the German Chancellor.

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Tilla_braucht_ne Villa_Zoo Berlin (2)

“We were overwhelmed by the number of submissions and would like to express our sincere thanks for the many, in some cases very personal, name suggestions,” says Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem. “It was no easy task, but we finally decided to name our little gorilla Tilla.” The animal keepers marked the occasion by treating the gorilla family to a special feast. “Contrary to what many people assume, a gorilla’s diet consists mostly of salad and vegetables,” explains Zoo veterinarian Dr André Schüle. “The buffet we laid on for Bibi, Sango and the rest of the family featured rice, raspberries, pomegranate, peppers and carrots and was a real treat for the eyes as well as the belly.”

FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN FOR A NEW PRIMATE HOUSE

With coronavirus-related losses in the tens of millions, last year dealt a massive financial blow to Zoo Berlin. As a result, it is now an even greater challenge to raise funds for upcoming construction projects like the new Primate House. Zoo Berlin therefore needs outside support to realise its goal of giving the primates a more spacious home with natural features as soon as possible. Donations are currently being collected for Tilla and her family under the campaign motto “My gorilla needs a villa at the Zoo”. Each and every contribution is greatly appreciated: www.zoo-berlin.de/gorillatilla

Background information

Following a gestation period of about eight and a half months, a female gorilla was born at Zoo Berlin on the night of 15 February. The last time a gorilla came into the world here was 16 years ago. For the first few months, the infant is completely dependent on her mother’s care and she will live off her milk for four to five years. Mother Bibi (24) spent the first nine years of her life in a gorilla family at Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands. During this time, she observed other gorillas taking care of their young, which provided her with a good example of how to raise her own infant. This is the first offspring for both Bibi and Zoo Berlin’s silverback Sango (16). As well as Sango and Bibi, Zoo Berlin’s gorilla family includes females Djambala (19) and Mpenzi (35). Elderly Fatou (63), the oldest known gorilla in the world, is spending her retirement in a separate, neighbouring habitat. During these crucial early days, only the animal keepers are permitted to enter the Primate House – which is currently closed to visitors anyway due to coronavirus restrictions.

Gorillas are the largest and heaviest of the great apes. An adult male can measure up to two metres when standing upright and weighs about 220 kilos. On the recommendation of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), male gorilla Sango moved from Pairi Daiza in Belgium to Zoo Berlin in February 2019 to complete Berlin’s gorilla family. Tragically, these remarkable herbivores are threatened with extinction in the wild because of habitat destruction and illegal hunting.


Baby Gorilla Born at Zoo Berlin

The little ape with its small, delicate body and big dark eyes hides shyly in the arms of its mother Bibi (24). Following a gestation period of about eight and a half months, the infant was born at Zoo Berlin on the night of 15 February. The last time a gorilla came into the world here was 16 years ago. For the Zoo Berlin team, it is now a case of watching from the sidelines with wonder and bated breath: “We are very relieved that the baby looks fit and healthy and that the mother appears to be taking good care of her offspring,” says Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem. During these crucial early days, only division head Christian Aust and his team of animal keepers will enter the Primate House – which is currently closed to visitors anyway due to coronavirus restrictions. “Peace and quiet are top priority,” says Knieriem.

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Bibi spent the first nine years of her life in a gorilla family at Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands. During this time, she observed other gorillas taking care of their young, which provided her with a good example of how to raise her own infant. At birth, a baby gorilla is greyish pink in colour and has just a few dark hairs on its head and back. The skin starts to turn black only after a couple of days. This is the first offspring for both Bibi and Zoo Berlin’s silverback Sango (16). “For the first few months, a baby gorilla is completely dependent on its mother’s care and lives off her milk for four to five years,” explains Zoo Berlin’s veterinarian Dr. André Schüle. “Little gorillas can hold on to their mother’s fur from the moment they are born, and she carries them around wherever she goes – initially on her tummy and later on her back.” As mother and baby are not yet being approached by either animal keepers or veterinarians, the baby’s sex is not known and its birth weight could not be determined. Generally, newborn gorillas weigh about two kilos. “Happily, we have already observed the young gorilla suckling,” reports Schüle. Although the whole gorilla group is showing a lot of interest in the new family member, the mother is solely responsible for rearing her infant. As well as Sango and Bibi, Zoo Berlin’s gorilla family includes females Djambala (19) and Mpenzi (35). Elderly Fatou (63), the oldest known gorilla in the world, is spending her retirement in a separate, neighbouring habitat.

Gorillas are the largest and heaviest of the great apes. An adult male can measure up to two metres when standing upright and weighs about 220 kilos. On the recommendation of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), male gorilla Sango moved from Pairi Daiza in Belgium to Zoo Berlin in February 2019 to complete Berlin’s gorilla family. Tragically, these remarkable herbivores are threatened with extinction in the wild because of habitat destruction and illegal hunting.


Germany's First Giant Panda Cubs Born at Zoo Berlin

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Behind the scenes in the Panda Garden at Zoo Berlin, first-time Giant Panda mom Meng Meng snuggles her tiny newborns into the warm, soft fur of her face. On August 31, Berlin’s Panda population doubled as Germany welcomed its first-ever Panda offspring – two of them!

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Csm_Panda-Nachwuchs_Zoo_Berlin__2__148f5b0a07Photo Credit: Zoo Berlin

The past month at Zoo Berlin has been particularly tense and exciting, with plenty of waiting and crossed fingers. Finally, on August 31 at 6:54 p.m., the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived: following a gestation period of 147 days, female Panda Meng Meng, 6, gave birth to her very first cub. The joyous event came just one week after experts from Zoo Berlin and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) were able to perform an ultrasound scan that determined Meng Meng was indeed pregnant.

Immediately after giving birth, the new mother knew just what to do: she placed the tiny creature gently on her belly and began to warm it lovingly with her big paws, warm breath, and the soft fur of her cheeks. But mother and child weren’t alone for long, as at 7:42 p.m. – just under an hour later – a second cub was born!

“Meng Meng and her two cubs coped well with the birth and are all in good health,” reports Zoo Director Dr. Andreas Knieriem. “Even though these are the first offspring born to our young female Panda, she is already doing a wonderful job as a mum. In the beginning, the young have to feed roughly every two to three hours and are dependent on the body heat of their mother to keep warm.”

Like all baby Giant Pandas, Germany’s first Panda cubs were born pink with fine white down and a disproportionately large tail. Though they are helpless, the youngsters came out with strong lungs and immediately put them to good use. Meng Meng responds to their loud squeaks by carefully guiding the little ones to her teats to feed. As Pandas that give birth to twins usually only raise one of the cubs, in close cooperation with Chinese experts of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Zoo Berlin has decided to actively support Meng Meng in the rearing process to ensure the survival of both cubs.

“There are only 1,864 adult Giant Pandas currently living in their natural habitat,” says Knieriem. “As a result, every single new cub represents an important contribution to the conservation of the species.” The young Pandas are therefore currently on alternating, two-to-three-hour shifts with their mother, and are otherwise being cared for in a cozy warm incubator by the Chinese breeding experts. Vets have even managed to conduct an initial examination – with promising results. At two weeks old, the cubs had more than doubled their birth weights to 431 grams (about one pound) and 343 grams (roughly 12 ounces). They are nursing so well from Meng Meng that supplemental bottle feedings are no longer needed. The cubs’ genders have not been determined yet.

The young Panda family will stay behind the scenes for a while and will not be on view to Zoo visitors until further notice. For Panda dad Jiao Qing, 9, on the other hand, life goes on as normal. Male Pandas are not involved in the rearing of their young, so he can be found relaxing and munching on bamboo in the Panda Garden.

See more photos of Meng Meng and her babies below.

Continue reading "Germany's First Giant Panda Cubs Born at Zoo Berlin" »


Sleepy Little Polar Bear Dreams of Christmas

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One can only wonder what the sleepy little bear is dreaming about…perhaps Santa or a white Christmas?

Although still blind, deaf and about the size of a guinea pig, the growing Polar Bear cub at Tierpark Berlin is now twelve-days-old.

The cub still spends most of the day snugly nestled in mother, Tonja's, warm fur. Tonja gave birth to her youngster on the afternoon of December 1.

According to keepers, the newborn’s appetite is healthy, too. "The young animal now drinks at a fairly regular rhythm of two hours," explains Eisbären- curator, Dr. Florian Sicks. "So far we are very satisfied with the development. As in the last few years, Tonja takes excellent care of her offspring.”

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4_Tonja putzt ihr Jungtier_Tierpark Berlin_2018Photo Credits: Tierpark Berlin

Approximately 30 days after birth, eyes and auditory canals will open up for the young Polar Bear, as well. 

The new father, Volodya, moved to Zoo Berlin in the summer of 2018. In the wild, Polar Bears live as loners and the males are not involved in the rearing of juveniles.

Thanks to new camera technology, the experts at Tierpark Berlin are able to follow the events in the litter cave around the clock. The mortality rate of young Polar Bears is particularly high. In their natural habitat, about 85% of the bears do not reach an age older than two years.

Since absolute rest for mother and offspring is a decisive factor for the success of the rearing, no one will approach the nesting cave in the coming weeks. Also, the Polar Bears are currently not visible to visitors.


Zoo Berlin's Baby Rhino Makes Her Debut

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On September 22, on World Rhino Day, 16-year-old Black Rhinoceros Maburi gave birth to a female calf at Zoo Berlin. Then, after spending about three weeks in the barn bonding with her mother, the little girl stepped confidently into the Rhino yard on October 12.

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Spitzmaulnashorn Maburi mit Jungtier_Zoo Berlin_2018Photo Credit: Zoo Berlin

Black Rhinos are born without horns, but you can already see two bumps on the calf’s snout. Her horns, which are made of the same material as human hair and fingernails, will gradually grow from these spots. Rhinos take about five to seven years to fully mature, and Maburi’s calf will nurse for about two years. Leaves, twigs, and vegetables will gradually be introduced to the calf’s diet.

The calf has not yet been named, but the zoo is accepting name suggestions on their Facebook page.  

Zoo Berlin has a long history of caring for and breeding Black Rhinos, with 20 calves born over the years. Black Rhinos are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their numbers have dwindled to just a few thousand, and they survive mainly in southern and eastern Africa.

There are seven to eight subspecies of Black Rhino, and three of those subspecies have become extinct in the last 150 years; a fourth is precariously close to extinction. Rhinos are illegally poached for their horns, which are thought to have medicinal properties and spiritual powers, all of which are unproven. Even Rhinos under armed protection have been poached, highlighting the difficulty of advancing conservation goals amid the potential for illicit economic gains.


Sumatran Tiger Cubs Have First Big Vet Check

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Tierpark Berlin’s four Sumatran Tiger cubs are now eight-weeks-old, and the quad had their first big veterinarian checkup on October 2.

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4_Tigervierlinge bei der U1_TierparkBerlin_2018_1Photo Credits: Tierpark Berlin

Although they aren’t even the size of a domestic house cat, the cubs can already “hiss” like full-grown big cats! Veterinarian, Dr. Günter Strauß, was also introduced to the future proficiency of their claws and teeth during the examination.

"Natural breeding of young animals also means that the offspring does not always make it easy and convenient for the vet," explained Veterinarian, Dr. Ing. Günter Strauss. "A wild animal defends itself when a human gets too close to it and that's a good thing."

Andreas Knieriem, Zoo and Animal Park Director, added, "The Tiger quadruplets survived their first investigation well. They are well fed, yet we now want to start feeding some meat to the young. We hope that they will soon be strong enough to follow the tiger mum, Mayang (age 7) on the large rock formation, so that also the Tierpark visitors can see the Tiger quad."

The two females and two males were born on August 4 to parents, Mayang and Harfan. The Zoo expects the cubs to be spending most of their time with mom for the present, but keepers anticipate the new family will be on exhibit in late October.


Sumatran Tiger Quad Born at Tierpark Berlin

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Since August 4, Tierpark Berlin gained some stripes. Sumatran Tiger parents, Mayang and Harfan, welcomed four cubs. Seven-year-old Mayang gave birth to two females and two males. The Zoo expects them to be spending most of their time with mom for the next few months, but keepers anticipate the new family will be on exhibit in late October.

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The Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) population in the Indonesian island of Sumatra was listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List in 2008. The population was estimated at 441 to 679 individuals, with no subpopulation larger than 50 individuals and a declining trend.

"For animal species which are so threatened or endangered like the Sumatran Tiger, of course, every young a special gift," said Zoo Director, Dr. Andreas Knieriem. "We are delighted to be able to make such an important contribution to the preservation of an entire way."

Harfan and Mayang arrived at Tierpark Berlin on loan from the Republic of Indonesia. Sumatran Tigers have made their home at Tierpark Berlin since 1956.


Two Harbor Seal Pups Join the Pod at Zoo Berlin

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On a recent morning, keepers at Zoo Berlin began their daily inspection of the Harbor Seal habitat. One of the keepers’ first tasks is to perform a head count of the seven animals under their care. As they began to count, they noticed not seven pairs of dark eyes staring back at them, but eight! It soon became clear that female Shiva, age 23, gave birth to a pup during the night. A few days later, the same scenario: now there are nine Seals in the habitat! This time Molly, age 13, is the proud mother of a brand-new pup. 

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Csm_08_fb93131d5ePhoto Credit: Zoo Berlin

Zoo Berlin is home to a large extended family of Harbor Seals. Male Leopold, age 21, sired two pups last year. His sons Gregor and Herbert are still part of the group, which also includes females Lara, age 18, and Yohanna, age one. 

Harbor Seals have a gestation period of up to eleven months. Pups are born with the same smooth fur as the adults and can swim almost from birth. 

Harbor Seal pups are weaned at around two months old. “Seal pups are much more vulnerable to attack on sand banks than they are in the water, so they have to grow up quickly,” explains Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr. Andreas Knieriem. “Before too long, the newborn Seals will be almost indistinguishable from their parents.”

In the wild, these aquatic mammals are found all over the northern hemisphere – on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as in the North Sea and the Baltic. However, they are very rare on the northern European coasts. Commercial hunting of Harbor Seals was banned several decades ago in most countries around the world. Only native peoples are permitted to hunt these seals for subsistence hunting.


Spectacled Bear Cub Makes Debut at Tierpark Berlin

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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.”

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4_32089893_10156196391715149_48858461332570112_oPhoto 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.