Christmas greetings from Hellabrunn Zoo

Puri, the baby rhino, enjoys his first Christmas and, in particular, the Christmas tree in his enclosure. And the polar bears Giovanna and Yoghi are finally reunited - just in time for the season of love.

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

What’s that I see in my enclosure? The sight of a brightly decorated conifer in the rhino enclosure took baby Puri by surprise. But any initial hesitation that lurked within the four-month-old bull regarding the unknown object was quickly overcome by the discovery of Christmas treats of all sorts dangling from the tree - which he discovered with the help of his curious mother Rapti who approached the Christmas tree fearlessly. And within no time the rhinos began to enjoy their special Christmas treat, a mixture of carrots, peppers, tomatoes and oranges.


The Christmas tree stood for a while, but eventually the force of the rhinos prevailed, knocking the tree from its stand that the keepers had made from a tree trunk. It can therefore be concluded that Christmas trees definitely don’t last as long with rhinoceroses as they do in our homes. The beautifully decorated Christmas trees that stand in our living rooms cannot be accepted by the zoo as feed donation after Christmas as the tinsel or other decorative residue can be extremely hazardous for the animals.


The festive spirit also made its way to Hellabrunn’s Polar World: On 23 December, the polar bear Yoghi was finally reunited with his sweetheart Giovanna after the two were separated following Giovanna’s pregnancy and retreat to her birthing den in November 2013. "Our polar bear Giovanna and Yoghi are finally reunited. For their offspring, the two-year-old twins Nela and Nobby, this meant they had to bid farewell to their mother," says zoo director Rasem Baban." Giovanna had recently become increasingly impatient with her two cubs, suggesting that the time had come for her to say goodbye to her little ones. Even in the wild polar bear cubs tend to leave their mothers at around this age and go their separate ways." 


Nela and Nobby, who celebrated their second birthday on 9 December, are currently undergoing special crate training to prepare them for their journey to two different zoos in Europe. The training will allow the polar bear twins to gradually familiarise themselves with their transport crates so that they eventually learn that the crates do not present a danger to them. Once they become familiar with the crates they will then enter them voluntarily before being transported. This avoids the use of an anaesthetic, which is always associated with an element of risk. 


Giovanna will no longer see her cubs before they are transferred to other zoos within a few weeks. As the twins are unable to live with their father, only seeing their mother from time to time would just make the final farewell even harder. No exact date for Nela and Nobby’s departure has been set, however their new homes have already been confirmed: Nela will live in a female group in the newly opened Emmen Zoo in the Netherlands and Nobby in an all-male group in Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster in England. Both zoos have been selected as part of the European Endangered Species Programme. At Emmen Zoo, Nela will move into a completely newly built polar bear enclosure with 4,700 m2 of space, where she will be joined by two young playmates of her age. At Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Nobby will join three other male polar bear juveniles to form a bachelor group and will live in a new enclosure measuring approximately 10,000 m2.


Christmas opening times at Hellabrunn Zoo:

Christmas Eve, 24 December    9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Christmas Day, 25 December    9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Boxing Day, 26 December          9:00 am - 5:00 pm