Harmonious family reunion for polar bears at contact fence
On Friday, 7 November, papa polar bear Yoghi met his eleven-month-old twin cubs Nela and Nobby for the first time. No one was able to predict how the cubs' father would behave at the contact fence or how mama Giovanna and her cubs Nela and Nobby would react. But to everyone's surprise the meeting was - for the most part - harmonious.
Yoghi (14 years) returned to Munich a month ago, after spending several months at a zoo in Stuttgart. He had not seen Nela and Nobby since they were born on 9 December 2013. Polar bear mothers generally do not allow males near their cubs. However, Yoghi and Giovanna have always been considered a harmonious pair, which implies that Giovanna may allow contact with the father. To test whether this is likely, an initial acquaintance meeting was arranged with the four members of the polar bear family at the cuddling fence.
At 10:20am, Yoghi - lured by his favorite food, dried dates, offered to him by the Head Zookeeper of Polar World, Helmut Kern - approached the contact fence. At the time, Giovanna and the twin cubs were in the tundra enclosure, where they were separated from Yoghi not only by the contact fence, but also by a sliding door. As the door opened, Giovanna approached the fence, curiously but cautiously, to the point where Yoghi was already waiting. The two had not seen each other for about a year. Nela and Nobby, somewhat hesitant, initially remained at a distance in the tundra enclosure, before sniffing their way along the ground to their mother, and thereby also approaching their father. At the fence, Giovanna appeared quite relaxed in the presence of Yoghi. The two began to sniff each other. This was followed by a short growl and a small bang on the fence with a paw - Giovanna appeared to feign a defensive attack on Yoghi. If she came face to face with an unknown polar bear her behavior would be quite different: she would become aggressive. But as the meeting between the two was fairly harmonious, even the two little cubs did not appear to be afraid to approach their father. It was an exciting first encounter for Hellabrunn Zoo’s twin cubs.
"We always assumed that Yoghi would remain calm and relaxed when he met Giovanna at the contact fence," says zoo director Rasem Baban. "The question was rather how our mama polar bear would react. In the wild, a mother polar bear will not let any male anywhere near her cubs. But Giovanna knows Yoghi well and trusts him. And her friendly attitude towards him today shows us that a family reunion should not be ruled out."
From now on, Yoghi, Giovanna, Nela and Nobby will have an opportunity to meet each other several times a day at the contact fence. Depending on how these meetings develop, a reunion with the entire family may be arranged at a later date.
Christine Strobl, deputy mayor and chairman of the zoo, is a big fan of Hellabrunn's polar bears. She was therefore thrilled with the return of the head of the bear family to the zoo and looks forward to his first meeting with the rest of his family. "It's nice to see that Yoghi has returned to Hellabrunn in good health. This is his home and that of his family. We hope that everything works out for Yoghi to get to know his little cubs up close."