Berlin Zoo

Germany's First Giant Panda Cubs Born at Zoo Berlin

Erstversorgung Panda-Zwillinge_Zoo Berlin_2019

Behind the scenes in the Panda Garden at Zoo Berlin, first-time Giant Panda mom Meng Meng snuggles her tiny newborns into the warm, soft fur of her face. On August 31, Berlin’s Panda population doubled as Germany welcomed its first-ever Panda offspring – two of them!

Csm_Panda-Nachwuchs_Zoo_Berlin__2__148f5b0a07
Csm_Panda-Nachwuchs_Zoo_Berlin__2__148f5b0a07Photo Credit: Zoo Berlin

The past month at Zoo Berlin has been particularly tense and exciting, with plenty of waiting and crossed fingers. Finally, on August 31 at 6:54 p.m., the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived: following a gestation period of 147 days, female Panda Meng Meng, 6, gave birth to her very first cub. The joyous event came just one week after experts from Zoo Berlin and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) were able to perform an ultrasound scan that determined Meng Meng was indeed pregnant.

Immediately after giving birth, the new mother knew just what to do: she placed the tiny creature gently on her belly and began to warm it lovingly with her big paws, warm breath, and the soft fur of her cheeks. But mother and child weren’t alone for long, as at 7:42 p.m. – just under an hour later – a second cub was born!

“Meng Meng and her two cubs coped well with the birth and are all in good health,” reports Zoo Director Dr. Andreas Knieriem. “Even though these are the first offspring born to our young female Panda, she is already doing a wonderful job as a mum. In the beginning, the young have to feed roughly every two to three hours and are dependent on the body heat of their mother to keep warm.”

Like all baby Giant Pandas, Germany’s first Panda cubs were born pink with fine white down and a disproportionately large tail. Though they are helpless, the youngsters came out with strong lungs and immediately put them to good use. Meng Meng responds to their loud squeaks by carefully guiding the little ones to her teats to feed. As Pandas that give birth to twins usually only raise one of the cubs, in close cooperation with Chinese experts of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Zoo Berlin has decided to actively support Meng Meng in the rearing process to ensure the survival of both cubs.

“There are only 1,864 adult Giant Pandas currently living in their natural habitat,” says Knieriem. “As a result, every single new cub represents an important contribution to the conservation of the species.” The young Pandas are therefore currently on alternating, two-to-three-hour shifts with their mother, and are otherwise being cared for in a cozy warm incubator by the Chinese breeding experts. Vets have even managed to conduct an initial examination – with promising results. At two weeks old, the cubs had more than doubled their birth weights to 431 grams (about one pound) and 343 grams (roughly 12 ounces). They are nursing so well from Meng Meng that supplemental bottle feedings are no longer needed. The cubs’ genders have not been determined yet.

The young Panda family will stay behind the scenes for a while and will not be on view to Zoo visitors until further notice. For Panda dad Jiao Qing, 9, on the other hand, life goes on as normal. Male Pandas are not involved in the rearing of their young, so he can be found relaxing and munching on bamboo in the Panda Garden.

See more photos of Meng Meng and her babies below.

Continue reading "Germany's First Giant Panda Cubs Born at Zoo Berlin" »


Sleepy Little Polar Bear Dreams of Christmas

1_Eisbär-Jungtier schläft_Tierpark Berlin_2018 (2)

One can only wonder what the sleepy little bear is dreaming about…perhaps Santa or a white Christmas?

Although still blind, deaf and about the size of a guinea pig, the growing Polar Bear cub at Tierpark Berlin is now twelve-days-old.

The cub still spends most of the day snugly nestled in mother, Tonja's, warm fur. Tonja gave birth to her youngster on the afternoon of December 1.

According to keepers, the newborn’s appetite is healthy, too. "The young animal now drinks at a fairly regular rhythm of two hours," explains Eisbären- curator, Dr. Florian Sicks. "So far we are very satisfied with the development. As in the last few years, Tonja takes excellent care of her offspring.”

2_Eisbär-Jungtier gähnt_Tierpark Berlin_2018

3_Eisbär-Jungtier schläft_Tierpark Berlin_2018 (1)

4_Tonja putzt ihr Jungtier_Tierpark Berlin_2018Photo Credits: Tierpark Berlin

Approximately 30 days after birth, eyes and auditory canals will open up for the young Polar Bear, as well. 

The new father, Volodya, moved to Zoo Berlin in the summer of 2018. In the wild, Polar Bears live as loners and the males are not involved in the rearing of juveniles.

Thanks to new camera technology, the experts at Tierpark Berlin are able to follow the events in the litter cave around the clock. The mortality rate of young Polar Bears is particularly high. In their natural habitat, about 85% of the bears do not reach an age older than two years.

Since absolute rest for mother and offspring is a decisive factor for the success of the rearing, no one will approach the nesting cave in the coming weeks. Also, the Polar Bears are currently not visible to visitors.


Zoo Berlin's Baby Rhino Makes Her Debut

Spitzmaulnashorn-Jungtier_Zoo Berlin_2018 (1)

On September 22, on World Rhino Day, 16-year-old Black Rhinoceros Maburi gave birth to a female calf at Zoo Berlin. Then, after spending about three weeks in the barn bonding with her mother, the little girl stepped confidently into the Rhino yard on October 12.

Spitzmaulnashorn Maburi mit Jungtier_Zoo Berlin_2018
Spitzmaulnashorn Maburi mit Jungtier_Zoo Berlin_2018Photo Credit: Zoo Berlin

Black Rhinos are born without horns, but you can already see two bumps on the calf’s snout. Her horns, which are made of the same material as human hair and fingernails, will gradually grow from these spots. Rhinos take about five to seven years to fully mature, and Maburi’s calf will nurse for about two years. Leaves, twigs, and vegetables will gradually be introduced to the calf’s diet.

The calf has not yet been named, but the zoo is accepting name suggestions on their Facebook page.  

Zoo Berlin has a long history of caring for and breeding Black Rhinos, with 20 calves born over the years. Black Rhinos are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their numbers have dwindled to just a few thousand, and they survive mainly in southern and eastern Africa.

There are seven to eight subspecies of Black Rhino, and three of those subspecies have become extinct in the last 150 years; a fourth is precariously close to extinction. Rhinos are illegally poached for their horns, which are thought to have medicinal properties and spiritual powers, all of which are unproven. Even Rhinos under armed protection have been poached, highlighting the difficulty of advancing conservation goals amid the potential for illicit economic gains.


Sumatran Tiger Cubs Have First Big Vet Check

1_Tiger-Vierlinge in der Wurfhöhle_Tierpark Berlin_2018

Tierpark Berlin’s four Sumatran Tiger cubs are now eight-weeks-old, and the quad had their first big veterinarian checkup on October 2.

2_Tigervierlinge bei der U1_TierparkBerlin_2018_3

3_Tigervierlinge bei der U1_TierparkBerlin_2018_2

4_Tigervierlinge bei der U1_TierparkBerlin_2018_1Photo Credits: Tierpark Berlin

Although they aren’t even the size of a domestic house cat, the cubs can already “hiss” like full-grown big cats! Veterinarian, Dr. Günter Strauß, was also introduced to the future proficiency of their claws and teeth during the examination.

"Natural breeding of young animals also means that the offspring does not always make it easy and convenient for the vet," explained Veterinarian, Dr. Ing. Günter Strauss. "A wild animal defends itself when a human gets too close to it and that's a good thing."

Andreas Knieriem, Zoo and Animal Park Director, added, "The Tiger quadruplets survived their first investigation well. They are well fed, yet we now want to start feeding some meat to the young. We hope that they will soon be strong enough to follow the tiger mum, Mayang (age 7) on the large rock formation, so that also the Tierpark visitors can see the Tiger quad."

The two females and two males were born on August 4 to parents, Mayang and Harfan. The Zoo expects the cubs to be spending most of their time with mom for the present, but keepers anticipate the new family will be on exhibit in late October.


Sumatran Tiger Quad Born at Tierpark Berlin

Sumatra-Tiger-Nachwuchs_Tierpark Berlin 2018 (2)

Since August 4, Tierpark Berlin gained some stripes. Sumatran Tiger parents, Mayang and Harfan, welcomed four cubs. Seven-year-old Mayang gave birth to two females and two males. The Zoo expects them to be spending most of their time with mom for the next few months, but keepers anticipate the new family will be on exhibit in late October.

Sumatra-Tiger-Nachwuchs_Tierpark Berlin 2018 (1)Photo Credits: Tierpark Berlin

The Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) population in the Indonesian island of Sumatra was listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List in 2008. The population was estimated at 441 to 679 individuals, with no subpopulation larger than 50 individuals and a declining trend.

"For animal species which are so threatened or endangered like the Sumatran Tiger, of course, every young a special gift," said Zoo Director, Dr. Andreas Knieriem. "We are delighted to be able to make such an important contribution to the preservation of an entire way."

Harfan and Mayang arrived at Tierpark Berlin on loan from the Republic of Indonesia. Sumatran Tigers have made their home at Tierpark Berlin since 1956.


Two Harbor Seal Pups Join the Pod at Zoo Berlin

Csm_03_49b393c26c

On a recent morning, keepers at Zoo Berlin began their daily inspection of the Harbor Seal habitat. One of the keepers’ first tasks is to perform a head count of the seven animals under their care. As they began to count, they noticed not seven pairs of dark eyes staring back at them, but eight! It soon became clear that female Shiva, age 23, gave birth to a pup during the night. A few days later, the same scenario: now there are nine Seals in the habitat! This time Molly, age 13, is the proud mother of a brand-new pup. 

Csm_08_fb93131d5e
Csm_08_fb93131d5e
Csm_08_fb93131d5ePhoto Credit: Zoo Berlin

Zoo Berlin is home to a large extended family of Harbor Seals. Male Leopold, age 21, sired two pups last year. His sons Gregor and Herbert are still part of the group, which also includes females Lara, age 18, and Yohanna, age one. 

Harbor Seals have a gestation period of up to eleven months. Pups are born with the same smooth fur as the adults and can swim almost from birth. 

Harbor Seal pups are weaned at around two months old. “Seal pups are much more vulnerable to attack on sand banks than they are in the water, so they have to grow up quickly,” explains Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr. Andreas Knieriem. “Before too long, the newborn Seals will be almost indistinguishable from their parents.”

In the wild, these aquatic mammals are found all over the northern hemisphere – on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as in the North Sea and the Baltic. However, they are very rare on the northern European coasts. Commercial hunting of Harbor Seals was banned several decades ago in most countries around the world. Only native peoples are permitted to hunt these seals for subsistence hunting.


Spectacled Bear Cub Makes Debut at Tierpark Berlin

1_32080632_10156196391610149_3039775241321578496_o

Tierpark Berlin’s new Spectacled Bear recently made his public debut. He was seen hesitantly following him mother and stepping tentatively through the grass.

After spending almost four months in the birthing den, twenty-year-old mother, Julia, is now happily spending time out in the fresh air with her new cub. Keepers say there is plenty for the youngster to explore in the large outdoor habitat, with its high rocks, climbing trees, and small hills.

“The cub seems quite confident,” said Bear Curator, Dr. Florian Sicks. “Young Spectacled Bears become increasingly independent from the age of three or four months and learn to climb early. That’s important in the wild, as they need to be able to clamber up trees to escape from predators.”

The climbing trees at Tierpark Berlin reach up to nine metres high, but young spectacled bears can easily scale even such dizzying heights.

“The new Spectacled Bear cub represents an important contribution to the global population of this bear species,” explains Zoo and Tierpark Director, Dr. Andreas Knieriem. “So I’m particularly pleased that the cub is developing so well.”

2_31964186_10156196391655149_5742188717167083520_o

3_31960159_10156196391540149_1601127253482143744_o

4_32089893_10156196391715149_48858461332570112_oPhoto Credits: Tierpark Berlin

The IUCN Red List classifies the Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) as “Vulnerable”. The main threat to their survival is habitat destruction caused by deforestation and conversion of land for agricultural use. Spectacled Bears that wander onto fields in search of food (either crops or domestic animals) are also often killed by their human rivals. Spectacled Bears are primarily herbivorous, but occasionally add protein to their diet in the form of insects, rodents, and sometimes, larger animals like domestic sheep.

Tierpark Berlin’s young Spectacled Bear was born on December 26, 2017. He is the seventh cub for mom, Julia, and the second offspring for father, Carlos. The new cub is currently unnamed, but if a sponsor is found, he or she will be able to work with the keepers to decide on a suitable name.

A total of 17 Spectacled Bear cubs have grown up at the Tierpark Berlin. Bear curator, Dr. Florian Sicks, has been the coordinator of the European Endangered Species Programme for the Spectacled Bear since October 2017. It is his job to keep the population of these bears in Europe as stable and healthy as possible. This great responsibility is only given to zoos and curators with a high level of expertise.


Tierpark Berlin Welcomes New Porcupette

BaumstachlerNachwuchs_TierparkBerlin (4)

The North American Porcupine family at Tierpark Berlin made a ‘prickly’ welcome to their newest offspring.

The baby arrived on April 20, and for a brief moment, the porcupette was soft and furry. However, the quills began to harden soon after the birth, just like those of mom and dad.

This is the second North American Porcupine birth at Tierpark Berlin. The baby joins older sister, Pixie.

"Although the Porcupine looks very cute with their short legs and their otherwise rather chubby body shape, they are extremely defensive," said Zoo Curator, Dr. Florian Sicks. "This is ensured by the approximately 30,000 spines, which are up to 75 mm long and barbed at their ends. Also, the high-contrast brown-white coloring of the spines is a warning signal for cougar, lynx or golden eagle, better to keep a distance."

BaumstachlerNachwuchs_TierparkBerlin (7)Photo Credits: Tierpark Berlin

The species is also known as the Canadian Porcupine or Common Porcupine. It is a large rodent in the New World porcupine family. In their natural habitat in Canada, the US, and northern Mexico, the North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) spends much of the day asleep in trees or caves.

Tierpark Berlin’s Zoo Director, Dr. Andreas Knieriem, shared his thoughts about the successful breeding of the new porcupette’s parents: "Although the Porcupines moved to the zoo only in 2016, they have become an integral part of the future North American part of the zoo.”

“The fact that Oskar and Anni got offspring so quickly is not only a pleasure for the visitors, but also a confirmation for us that they feel comfortable here. They are a popular motif, and their sight is now so much the zoo, that we have immortalized them in our new zoo Animal Park.”


Baby Bear Gets His First Exam

Brillenbaerennachwuchs_Tierpark Berlin

A baby Spectacled Bear born at Tierpark Berlin “bears” a striking resemblance to Paddington Bear. That’s because the much-loved children’s book character was based on this species, which is native to the Andes Mountains of South America.

Born on December 26, the male cub underwent his first medical exam on March 27.  At the exam, the veterinary team confirmed his sex, implanted an ID chip, and gave the young Bear his first vaccinations. In just a few weeks, the cub – who is yet to be named – will join his mother Julia, age 20, and grandmother Puna, age 27, in the outdoor area of the Spectacled Bears’ habitat, where he is sure to win the hearts of Tierpark visitors.

007_Tierpark_27Mrz18_FS2_0045
007_Tierpark_27Mrz18_FS2_0045Photo Credit: Tierpark Berlin

Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr. Andreas Knieriem is thrilled about the new arrival. “Welcoming new baby Bears is always a joyous occasion – especially when it means we are able to make a contribution to the survival of a threatened species,” he said.

Breeding of Spectacled Bears in Europe is managed by the European Endangered Species Programme for Spectacled Bears. The program acts as a kind of matchmaking service to pair males and females based on their genetic pedigree.  This strategic breeding maintains a healthy, sustainable, and genetically diverse population in zoos.

Spectacled Bears have lived at Tierpark Berlin since 1956, just one year after the park opened.  This is the seventh cub born to experienced mother Julia, but only the second cub sired by Carlos, age 21. It is the first Spectacled Bear born at Tierpark Berlin since 2013. A total of 17 Spectacled Bear cubs have grown up in the Tierpark. These Bears have contributed to safeguarding the global population of the threatened species by moving to new homes in countries as far away as Japan, Russia, and Argentina.

Spectacled Bears, also known as Andean Bears, live in the Andes Mountains, from Bolivia in the south to Venezuela in the north. The Bears live in a variety of habitats, from lowland rainforests to high-altitude grasslands at 15,000 feet above sea level.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Spectacled Bear as Vulnerable. The main threat to their survival is loss and fragmentation of habitat, caused by deforestation and conversion of land for agricultural use. Spectacled Bears that wander onto fields in search of food – either crops or domestic animals – are often killed by their human rivals. Spectacled Bears are primarily herbivorous, occasionally adding protein to their diet by eating insects, rodents, and sometimes larger animals, such as domestic sheep.

 


Basketful of Binturongs Born at Tierpark Berlin

2_22254689_10155585279380149_6956957991965514236_o

On July 21, two Binturongs at Tierpark Berlin became proud parents. Vincent and Fiona welcomed four offspring when sixteen-year-old Fiona gave birth to two females and two males.

The four fluffy siblings have been tucked away with their mother since their birth, but on September 28 they received their first veterinarian exam and vaccinations. Visitors to the park can now see the curious quad exploring their outdoor exhibit.

"The special thing about this litter is that almost all the young animals look the same", explained park curator, Christian Kern. "Only one has a slightly lighter head. Usually, [Binturongs] siblings are quite different in the facial and skin coloring."

1_22219929_10155585279370149_5947056693935805177_o

3_22218601_10155585279375149_8376468431199241281_o

4_22179911_10155585279830149_7434153292353878084_oPhoto Credits: Tierpark Berlin

The Binturong (Arctictis binturong), also known as a Bearcat, is a viverrid that is native to South and Southeast Asia.

Binturongs are omnivorous, feeding on small mammals, birds, fish, earthworms, insects and fruits.

The estrous period of the Binturong is 81 days, with a gestation of 91 days. The average age of sexual maturation is 30.4 months for females and 27.7 months for males. The binturong is one of approximately 100 species of mammal believed by many experts to be capable of embryonic diapause, or delayed implantation, which allows the female of the species to time parturition to coincide with favorable environmental conditions. Typical litters consist of two offspring, but up to six may occur.

It is uncommon in much of its range, and has been assessed and classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List due to a declining population trend that is estimated at more than 30% over the last three decades. The main threat to the species is severe destruction of habitats in their native parts of the world.

The EAZA has established a conservation breeding program for Binturongs, including Tierpark Berlin’s animals. Tierpark Berlin supports the organization ABConservation, which specializes in the protection of the Binturongs, at its Bearcat Study Program on Palawan Island in the Philippines.

"Binturongs are kept in a comparatively large number of European zoos, but their breeding does not work regularly. The pairs must harmonize well in order to reproduce. It is therefore all the more pleasing that our Berlin couple have regularly been up-and-coming since 2003," said Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr. Andreas Knieriem.

Currently, the Binturong at Tierpark Berlin are the only ones in Germany. The four siblings are also currently yet-to-be-named.