Tierpark Animal News

A big adventure for a little bear

Tierpark Berlin’s polar bear cub ventures outdoors for the first time

A big white bear peers out of the rocky entrance to the den before leisurely padding outside. A moment later, a small white furball with cute round eyes trots out after her. It’s the moment the whole country has been waiting for: this morning, Tierpark Berlin’s new polar bear cub left the den with her mother Tonja (9) and explored the outside world for the very first time.

“Today is an extremely special day for the entire team here at Tierpark Berlin,” reports Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem with pride. “After months of nervous waiting and crossing our fingers, I can hardly put the feeling of relief into words. We are delighted that visitors will finally get to see our little polar bear this weekend.” The cub spent the first three and a half months of her life with her mother Tonja in the maternity den. During that time, the helpless and tiny newborn grew into a strong and sturdy little bear. “We are still extremely pleased with how the cub is developing,” says polar bear curator Dr Florian Sicks. “She has become so active and confident on her own four paws that it was clearly time for her to get outdoors.” The cub has gained such a lot of strength and confidence, in fact, that during her second veterinary examination last Tuesday she made it impossible for the team to weigh and measure her!

The spritely young bear had hardly emerged from the den before she was off on a thorough exploration of her new surroundings. She clambered boldly over the rocks and even splashed around in the large pool. “Young polar bears know instinctively how to swim as soon as they are big enough to leave the den with their mothers,” explains Sicks. Protective mum Tonja never let her daughter out of her sight and was always standing by in case help was required.

From Saturday, 16 March 2019 at 9:30 a.m., Tonja and her cub will be spending time outdoors every day and be on view to Tierpark visitors. Since outdoor adventures are rather tiring for small bears, the cub will still need to take regular rests with her mother in their den. The pair will therefore only be outside for a few hours at a time, especially in the early days. The young polar bear is currently still nameless. Tierpark Berlin is in the process of deciding on the cub’s sponsor, which will then be involved in choosing a name. A decision on both the sponsor and the name is expected to be reached in early April.

World’s biggest land predator in danger
The young polar bear at Tierpark Berlin is not just a cute crowd-pleaser; she plays an extremely important role as an ambassador for her species as a whole. Polar bears living in their natural habitat are in great danger, not least because of the actions of industrial nations like Germany. Rising global temperatures are causing the Arctic ice to melt. That means the polar bears’ territory, formerly so vast, is rapidly shrinking. It also lessens the bears’ chances of catching seals, as they cannot hunt in water. Polar bears are already classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Zoo and Tierpark Berlin support the work of the non-profit organisation Polar Bears International, which studies these vulnerable bears in their natural habitat. The organisation aims to use the findings of its research to establish protected areas where the bears will be able to find sufficient food and rear their young in peace. For more information, visit https://www.tierpark-berlin.de/de/natur-und-artenschutz/artenschutz-weltweit/eisbaer.

Background:
Tierpark Berlin’s female polar bear Tonja gave birth to her cub on 1 December 2018 at 2:33 a.m. Like all polar bears, she came into the world deaf and blind. The mortality rate of young polar bears is very high. In the wild, only around 15 percent live to the age of two. When the cub was first examined by vets on 14 February 2019, she measured 61 centimetres from head to tail and weighed an impressive 8.5 kilograms. The cub’s father, Wolodja (7), is not involved in raising the young. This is usual in the wild, as polar bears are solitary animals. Wolodja now lives at a zoo in the Netherlands.