Circle of life at Hellabrunn Zoo

The year 2016 ended with a baby boom and this year has also started with several breeding successes. During this autumn/winter period, some of the zoo's beloved residents also died due to old age.

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Susanne Bihler

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Maria Fencik

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Marc Müller

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Michael Matziol

The baby boomers are growing fast. Not only the little polar bear cub, but also the two orangutan boys, two king penguin chicks, a silvery gibbon infant and many other babies born at Hellabrunn Zoo in 2016 are growing stronger with each passing day. The zoo has also witnessed a number of births in 2017. These include several kangaroos, antelopes and a small cotton-top tamarin (commonly known as Liszt monkey due to its resemblance to the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt). During the same autumn/winter period, the zoo also lost four of its beloved residents due to old age: Felix the snow leopard, Cora the female Malayan tapir, Goldie the sea lioness, and most recently Sonora the female puma. "All of these animals lived to a very old age, but even so such a decision is always difficult for the veterinarians," says zoo director Rasem Baban. "But this also illustrates the circle of life. We are delighted with our breeding successes, but must also accept the deaths of other animals. Even with the best husbandry and veterinary care, the prolonging of life beyond a certain point is no longer in the interest of animal welfare."

On the other hand, orangutan mum Matra has had both hands full since giving birth in October: in addition to her own baby she has also adopted the baby of an inexperienced young mother in the group, and the two boys, who have grown considerably, are now quite active. Although they enjoy being cuddled in the safety of Matra's arms, they have increasingly started to pluck at her fur as well as venture off on their first explorations of their surroundings. "Matra is a really loving, patient mother. With the help of her older daughter Jolie, who always keenly observes how mum handles the babies, she keeps the two boys in check, "says curator Beatrix Köhler.

Last year also saw another double addition to a Hellabrunn family: the king penguins. The two chicks have since grown and are now almost as tall as their parents. In fact, their brown, fluffy down coat makes them appear much rounder than their adult relatives. It will be some time before the two chicks moult into their juvenile plumage: only after the age of nine months will the chicks' brown coat be transformed into the elegant, black-and-white colouration of their parents.

In the silvery gibbon enclosure, there are now three children living with their parents. Hellabrunn is the only zoo in Germany in which these highly endangered apes reside. The youngest silvery gibbon baby still enjoys cuddling with mum, but has also started to climb around to explore the enclosure.

The young banteng siblings Quadro and Quentin are also developing magnificently. When the two brothers are not roaming around their enclosure, they can be seen lying down with the other cattle in the group watching the world around them.

New births were also witnessed among the zebras, capybaras and, of course, the polar bears. Since the end of February, visitors can see the little cub with mum Giovanna in the tundra enclosure.