Hellabrunn polar bears Nela and Nobby arrive safely

The big day finally arrived on Tuesday, 16 February: On the morning of that day the polar bear twins Nela and Nobby set off on their journeys from Hellabrunn to other European zoos. Both polar bears have now arrived safely in their respective new homes.

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

As previously announced, it was high time for the two polar bears to leave their mother and strike out on their own. The new homes selected for the relocation of Nela and Nobby were chosen in coordination with the European Endangered Species Programme for polar bears. Nobby was transferred to Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster in England and Nela to Emmen Zoo in the Netherlands.

For several weeks prior to the actual transfer, the keepers began preparing the two bears for their journey by means of specialised crate training. The success of the training, designed to help the twins become accustomed to their shipping crate, was evident on Tuesday. Nela, the first to be loaded, entered her crate as practised in training without hesitation. She then had to move from her training crate into a docked transport crate. Despite being confronted with this new situation, she was able to master the task quickly and confidently on her keeper’s command. She even appeared quite relaxed during the ride on the forklift and loading into the truck.

Nobby, who was the second to be loaded, was a bit more cautious and left a foot in the door for some time. The keepers therefore had to be patient until they were able to close the transport crate. Once this was accomplished, Nobby was also loaded into a specially designed truck customised to transport polar bears safely. Both polar bears were calm and relaxed during their respective journeys. "The training over a long period and the familiarisation with the transport crate have thus paid off for the animals," says zoo director Rasem Baban. "Our keepers have done an excellent job with the training. The level of trust between keepers and polar bears was particularly evident during the loading."

The departure of the polar bears was not easy for the keepers and all the staff at the zoo, because the twins have grown close to the hearts of everyone over the last two years. Especially Christine Strobl, Mayor and Chairman of the zoo, who has always had a particular fondness for the polar bear twins: "We will all miss Nela and Nobby, especially as we will no longer see them frolicking around in the Polar World at Hellabrunn. But we know that in the Netherlands and England they will both have an opportunity to live with companions of the same age and sex, and this is exactly what they need."

Nela will first be given time to settle in her new home before joining two other playmates of the same age already living at Emmen Zoo. For now they are separated by a fence where they can meet and gradually become acquainted with each other. In her new zoo she will live into a completely newly built polar bear enclosure with more than 4,700 m2 of space to play and romp. Nobby will also have a chance to explore his new 10,000 m2 enclosure before forming a bachelor group with another male polar bear.

A video of the loading and departure of the polar bear twins is available on the Hellabrunn Zoo YouTube channel: Link to the video. Visitors to the zoo will still be able to experience polar bears up close as the twins’ parents Giovanna and Yoghi will continue to reside in Munich.

About Hellabrunn Zoo’s polar bears:

The polar bear twins Nela and Nobby were born on 9 December 2013. Hellabrunn Zoo achieved a worldwide first by recording the first colour video footage of the early development of polar bear cubs in the first few months with the mother in a birthing den - in a zoo or on the ice. This achievement is of great scientific importance.Mama bear Giovanna was born on 28 November 2006 in Fasano, Italy. She came to Hellabrunn in January 2008. During renovation work on the Polar World, Giovanna and Yoghi (born on 29.11.1999 in Pistoia, Italy) spent 2009 and 2010 in Berlin. There, Giovanna became Knut's first playmate. Since 2010, Yoghi and Giovanna have been living together as a harmonious couple at Hellabrunn. Yoghi mated with Giovanna in Easter 2013. By the end of the summer, after a period of dormancy of the fertilised egg, the embryo began to grow. After this, the gestation period only lasted eight weeks.

The father of the polar bear twins is the 16-year-old Yoghi. Between 12 March and 6 October 2014 he lived at Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart - transferred under the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) - where he kept the female polar bear Corinna company. A father bear presents a threat to his cubs, as he may see his own offspring as potential prey and could even eat them. Nela and Nobby have therefore always lived separately from their father.

Since 23.12.2015, Giovanna has been reunited with Yoghi in the same enclosure. The two are getting along very well together, just like old times.