Hellabrunn's polar bear twins begin crate training

In early 2016, Hellabrunn's polar bear twins Nela and Nobby will have to leave Munich. The zoo is currently making the first preparations for their journey.

Copyright: Marc Müller/Tierpark Hellabrunn

In the wild, polar bears leave their mother at two years of age, at the very latest, to embark on a new life wandering alone across the ice. Since triggering factors such as disputes over sufficient food or a new pregnancy do not occur in the zoo, the twins Nela and Nobby are able to stay a little longer with her mother Giovanna at Hellabrunn. However, the time has come for the zoo to begin making travel preparations. "We want to make the journey as smooth as possible for our two polar bears," says Beatrix Köhler, head of zoological department, explaining the next steps. "That is why we try to avoid the use of a general anaesthetic for transportation and have now begun crate training to prepare them for the transfer." The crate training is designed to help Nela and Nobby gradually become accustomed to their shipping crate. In this way the bears will learn that the crate presents no risk to them, and will enter the crate for their transfer voluntarily. This means that the use of an anaesthetic, which has inherent risks, can be avoided.

In order to be able to carry out the crate training with the two strong young polar bears, Nela and Nobby have to be separated from their mother Giovanna. This is done temporarily for several days at a time before the twins can be seen back together with their mother in the enclosure. In the meantime, Giovanna spends time with Yoghi, the father of the twins, in the neighbouring enclosure. "Yoghi has lived alone in his enclosure for the past few months, so he is naturally delighted with the visit from 'his' Giovanna." says Beatrix Köhler. "The temporary separation of the twins from Giovanna also initiates the gradual weaning from the mother."

Over the next few years, the twins will live in same-sex groups for juvenile polar bears. But the incredibly popular duo will still be at Hellabrunn Zoo for quite a while, and visitors will certainly have an opportunity to celebrate Nela and Nobby's second birthday and Christmas in Munich. Hellabrunn Zoo does not plan to relocate the young polar bears until early 2016, at the earliest, when Nela and Nobby have been finally weaned from their mother and also become accustomed to their transport crates.

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 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 born in Fasano, Italy. She came to Hellabrunn in January 2008. During renovation work at the Hellabrunn Polar World, Giovanna and Yoghi (born on 29.11.1999 in Pistoia, Italy) spent 2009 and 2010 in Berlin. There, Giovanna became Knuts' 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 another eight weeks.

The father of the polar bear twins, 15-year-old Yoghi, lived at Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart from 12 March - 6 October 2014 under the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), where he kept female 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 therefore live separately from her father.