The rarest ever polar bear cub born...

 After a fairly sad year for the reproductive success of the two polar bears Venus and Manasse, who gave birth to a cub December 2009 which eventually then died, we at the Ranua Wildlife Park can now carefully believe in the success of the birth of the cub this year.

The cub was born in the early morning hours on Friday, November 18, and has, by now, survived the most critical period of five days for polar bear cubs. The cub is growing and developing very well now.

The first polar bear cub ever surviving its birth in Finland is the greatest Christmas present for all at the Ranua Wildlife Park.

It is very rare for polar bears to give birth when they are in captivity, away from their natural freedom. The first 24 hours are the most critical: one third of the cubs die during this period. Half of the cubs die before they reach the age of five days, and after a month, only 40% of the cubs born are still surviving. In the earlier times, perhaps the greatest reason for the weakened reproduction for polar bears at various wildlife parks has been the amount of outer stimulus disturbing the mother polar bear, this disturbance eventually causing the mother to abandon its cub or even killing the cub. At the Ranua Wildlife Park, therefore, we have protected the polar bear den and its surroundings early enough, in order to provide peace for Venus to give birth to her cubs. During the time of the pregnancy and also as the cub is being born, however, we follow the progress at all times through microphone recordings and surveillance video cameras installed in the den. While observing the surveillance cameras we not only insure the well-being of the polar bears but also acquire more important information about the behavior of the polar bears, specifically during the pregnancy, at the same time keeping a good eye on the development of the cub.

We took extra care of the well-being of Venus, the mother polar bear, during her pregnancy. A year ago Venus was diagnosed for the insufficiency of the thyroid gland. This condition was taken care of by the appropriate medication. In addition, we also insured that Venus received the all-important fatty acids by giving her cod-liver oil. In order for the mother to cope well with the weeks long fasting ahead and the following nursing of the cub, we also made sure, in her all-around feeding, that she would have enough fat reserves for the period of denning. The ideal weight for a pregnant polar bear female is 300 kilograms, and Venus, most probably, arrived to this weight by the breeding polar bear’s favorite cravings, namely, the roast pork.

A couple of weeks before giving birth, Venus the polar bear stopped eating altogether, and began spending more and more time in her den. On Friday November 18, Venus gave birth to two cubs. One of the cubs, sadly, died during its very first day. The mother nursed her lifeless cub for almost a week by licking the cub and keeping it close to herself. We will never find out the reason why the cub didn’t survive because, it seems, that the mother polar bear, finally, ate her dead cub. This is something understandable in the nature for the fact that the mother receives nutrition from the cub which will help her to survive still for a long time to come before she gets other nutrition.

The cub that survived its birth weighed half a kilogram and in three weeks time it has more than doubled its weight. When the cub reaches the age of a few months, we expect it to weigh close to ten kilograms. By that time, in February – March, it will be able to go outside with its mother. We will inform the public/visitors well in advance of the event.

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