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.
Photo Credit: Tierpark Berlin
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.
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.
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.”
Photo 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.
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.
Born in December, the cub has taken its first steps into the park’s outdoor enclosure, which had previously been closed to the public to allow mum, Victoria, the privacy she needed.
Staff members at the park are advising visitors that the cub may only be visible for small periods of time to begin with. Una Richardson, head keeper, said, “Having spent four months in her maternity den, Victoria quickly took the chance to go outside. Understandably, her cub has been more cautious and is still getting used to new sights, smells and sounds.”
“While the cub will become more confident and start to explore the large enclosure with Victoria, this will take time and they will always have access to their den for peace and quiet. There is no guarantee all of our visitors will see the cub at this early age, but they may be lucky.”
“There is huge interest in the park and seeing a Polar Bear cub will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for many people, particularly those traveling from around the world.”
Photo Credits: RZSS
Douglas Richardson, the park’s head of living collections, said, “Our pioneering captive Polar Bear management programme closely mirrors what happens in the wild and this birth shows our approach is working. This is vital because a healthy and robust captive population may one day be needed to augment numbers in the wild, such are the threats to the species from climate change and human pressures.”
“The reintroduction of Polar Bears would be an enormous task, but we need to have the option. While our cub will never be in the wild, there is a chance its offspring may be in decades to come.”
Chief Executive Barbara Smith added, “The birth of the first Polar Bear in the UK for a quarter of a century is a huge achievement for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the team at our Highland Wildlife Park. We are hopeful our cub will help to raise awareness of the dangers to Polar Bears in the wild. Collectively, we must do all we can to protect this magnificent species.”
Staff at the park expects to be able to discover the cub’s sex in April or May, when health checks will be possible.
The Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) is a carnivorous bear whose native range lies within the Arctic Circle, encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding landmasses.
The species is currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Risks include: climate change, pollution in the form of toxic contaminants, conflicts with shipping, oil and gas exploration and development, and human-bear interactions including harvesting and possible stresses from recreational watching.
On November 8, first-time mom, Anana, gave birth to twins at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (unfortunately, one of the cubs passed away soon after). On November 16, Anana’s own twin sister, Aurora, also gave birth to twins!
Aurora and her twins recently made their much-anticipated public debut, and it was announced that the twins are male and female. Anana and her female cub also made their first public appearance!
The Zoo reports that the three cubs will not be on view together, as female Polar Bears typically raise their young independently.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds staff are naming the twins through one of the many employee initiatives raising funds for conservation.
However, Polar Bear fans can vote for the moniker of Anana’s female cub through a naming contest via the Zoo’s website: www.ColumbusZoo.org/NameTheCub
Just follow the link to their page and cast a vote for one of the pre-selected names before May 2. The names for all the cubs will be announced on Mother’s Day, May 14!
Photo Credits: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (Images 1-4: Anana and her daughter / Images 5-8: Aurora and her male and female twins)
Visitors to Aalborg Zoo, in Denmark, have been enjoying the antics of two adorable Polar Bear sisters.
The female cubs were born November 26 to mom, Malik, and the trio emerged from their birthing den in late February.
Photo Credits: Ulli Joerres
The Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) is a carnivorous bear that is native to the circumpolar north including the United States (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland).
Polar Bears generally have their first set of cubs between the ages of four and eight years. Due to delayed implantation, the gestation period can range from about 195 to 265 days. Pregnant Polar Bears den in the fall and give birth, generally to two cubs, in the winter. The cubs grow quickly on their mother’s fat-rich milk before emerging from the den in the spring.
Polar Bears are at the top of the Arctic food chain and primarily eat seals. Their populations are declining due to the disappearance of sea ice, and experts estimate that only 20,000-25,000 Polar Bears are left in the wild. Some scientists believe if the warming trend continues two-thirds of the population could disappear by the year 2050.
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.
Today is ‘International Polar Bear Day’, and in honor of the efforts to save this species, we are introducing you to a trio of adorable new cubs!
On November 8, a Polar Bear named Anana gave birth to twins at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. On November 16, her sister, Aurora, also gave birth to twin cubs. However, this great news was met with the unfortunate passing of one of Anana’s cubs.
This is Aurora’s third time producing twins; the first litter did not survive and the now famous, Nora, was born in the second litter on November 6, 2015. Nora was hand reared by the Zoo team after Aurora left her alone in the den when she was six days old.
Activity inside the dens was being monitored using remote cameras, and the reason for the loss of Anana’s cub will likely never be known. Animal care staff members, who had been observing Anana and Aurora 24 hours a day, noted the cub stopped moving, but Anana continued to groom the cub and held it in position to nurse.
“At this time, both Anana and Aurora are attentively caring for their cubs but the sudden loss of one of Anana’s cubs is a sad reminder of how fragile their lives are both in our care and in their native Arctic environment,” said Carrie Pratt, Curator of North America and Polar Frontier. “We remain hopeful for the survival of these cubs as well as for the future of Polar Bears.”
Photo Credits: Columbus Zoo & Aquarium / Grahm S. Jones (Images: 1-9,11,12) ; Amanda Carberry (Image: 10)
The sire to all the cubs is 28-year-old Nanuq who came to the Columbus Zoo in 2012. As long as Aurora and Anana continue to care for cubs in their dens, Nanuq is the only Polar Bear visible to guests.
Anana and her cub are taking baby steps to explore other areas of the maternity den. The little one is now eating chow and will also steal little slivers of meat from mom. The cub is also climbing and running on sand piles and sod. After being introduced to a few inches of water (up to the belly), the cub is a big fan. The cub’s sex will be confirmed during the vet wellness check-up in the coming weeks, and both mom and baby will remain off-view until spring.
Aurora and her twin cubs are also experiencing similar milestones as her sister and cub. The cubs are being introduced to more of the behind-the-scenes yards with sand and sod (slowly growing their world) and they are doing great. They are also eating chow and sneaking bits of meat from mom. The twins have been introduced to a few inches of water. According to keepers, they will put all four paws in, splash around and stick their snouts in. Afterwards, they like to roll on the sod to dry off. The twins’ sex will be confirmed during their vet wellness check-up in the coming weeks, and, as with Anana and cub, both mom and babies will likely be on view in the spring.
Nanuq is the oldest male Polar Bear to reproduce in a North American zoo. Nine-year-old twins Aurora and Anana arrived at the Columbus Zoo in 2010 when the Polar Frontier region opened. All three bears came from other zoos on breeding loans as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the threatened species.
Female Polar Bears generally have their first set of cubs between the ages of four and eight years. Due to delayed implantation, the gestation period can range from about 195 to 265 days. Pregnant Polar Bears den in the fall and give birth, generally to two cubs, in the winter. The cubs grow quickly on their mother’s fat-rich milk before emerging from the den in the spring.
Polar Bears are native to the circumpolar north including the United States (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland). They are at the top of the Arctic food chain and primarily eat seals. Polar Bear populations are declining due to the disappearance of sea ice, and experts estimate that only 20,000-25,000 Polar Bears are left in the wild. Some scientists believe if the warming trend continues two-thirds of the population could disappear by the year 2050.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, in partnership with Polar Bears International (PBI), has provided support to 14 conservation projects in three countries since 1998. In recognition of the Zoo’s conservation and education programs, PBI has designated the Columbus Zoo an Arctic Ambassador Center.
Tierpark Berlin’s Polar Bear, Tonja, gave birth to a cub on November 3, 2016. Zoo officials announced that keepers were recently allowed to carry out their first physical exam of the cub.
Dr. Andreas Knieriem (veterinarian and Park Director), Detlef Balkow (keeper), and Dr. Günter Strauß (veterinarian) entered the nesting box to carry out the examination. The young bear was weighed, chipped and dewormed. The team was also able to finally determine the new Polar Bear is a male!
Photo Credits: Tierpark Berlin
For about seven weeks, keepers worked to prepare Tonja for the exam day. Andrea Fleischer, zoo veterinarian, slowly approached the stable of the young Polar Bear family and conducted daily visits.
In order to ensure that the small offspring could be safely examined, mom Tonja was also temporarily locked into the neighboring box. There she was kept busy with snacks of grapes, carrots and meat.
According to the examination team, the Polar Bear baby has developed quite fantastically. Thanks to the extremely nutritious mother's milk, with a fat content of 30%, the baby has grown rapidly in recent weeks. Keepers report, at the moment, he nurses for about three hours.
The little male was measured by the team and is currently 67 cm from the nose to the tail tip, and the bear now weighs-in at 4.6 kg.
"It was a great pleasure for me to be able to be part of the first vet check of our young Polar Bear. The little one struggled and was very curious, "notes Dr. Knieriem. "So, keeping a small Polar Bear on the arm is always a special experience."