Hellabrunn winter mums: Giovanna and Matra take loving care of their offspring
The two could not be more different and yet they have something in common: Both Matra, the female orangutan, and Giovanna, the female polar bear, have recently given birth and are currently busy caring for their offspring. While Giovanna spends a lot of time giving her little cub cuddles, the two orangutan babies are becoming increasingly active and alert.
For the past two months, Matra has not only been taking care of her own baby, but also that of the inexperienced orangutan mum Jahe, who was entrusted to her just a few hours after birth. "It’s nice to see what a caring mum Matra is," says curator Beatrix Köhler. "The two babies are developing splendidly and Matra is coping with raising two kids at the same time very well." Even her older daughter, Jolie, is impressed. The seven-year-old studies her mum’s maternal skills and rarely lets the experienced Matra with the little ones out of her sight.
Giovanna’s handling of her newborn cub also shows she is an experienced mum. As with her previous birth, she is very relaxed with her offspring and very affectionate. "The little cub is growing bigger every day and it probably won’t be long until it opens its eyes," says Beatrix Köhler. Polar bear cubs open their eyes for the first time about four to five weeks after birth. Their sense of hearing and smell then also unfold.
But apart from motherhood, Matra and Giovanna have one other thing in common: Both the Sumatran orangutan and the polar bear are listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In fact, the Sumatran orangutan is classified as critically endangered. Hellabrunn Zoo is actively involved in the European Endangered Species Programmes for the conservation of both species. "We are all the more delighted that this year we were able to welcome the birth of a polar bear cub as well as the baby orangutans," says zoo director, Rasem Baban. "Apart from caring for animals, one of the key responsibilities of a scientific zoo is species conservation. Polar bears and orangutans, in particular, are dependent on our work to protect nature and species - not least to protect the natural habitat of these magnificent animals."
For many years, Hellabrunn has been involved in a project with the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which operates a reintroduction station in Sumatra in the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park. The project, which was launched to prepare confiscated and orphaned Sumatran orangutans for release into the wild, has now become a major conservation project. The zoo also supports the conservation organisation Polar Bears International. As part of the cooperation, Hellabrunn currently sponsors a satellite collar for a female bear called Qannik. The collar worn by Qannik and other bears in the Canadian Hudson Bay transmits GPS signals that enable Polar Bears International to collect important scientific data on the habitat use, distribution, reproductive rate and population size of the polar bears.
If you are on a visit to Hellabrunn Zoo and have walked from the Orangutan House to the Species Conservation Center to watch the live video of the polar bear mum and her newborn cub in the mothering den, don’t miss the permanent exhibition also in the Species Conservation Center, where you can learn about various other species conservation projects, the importance of biodiversity and the role of zoos in species conservation around the world. You can also visit the touring exhibition Climate Factor – Man at the Species Conservation Center. The exhibition by the Bavarian Environmental Agency is open until 8 January 2017.
Here you can find a current video of Giovanna and her cub: Link