Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Vilma – Motherhood at last.

Vilma of  Zoo Wuppertal in Germany

Although this blog is mainly about polar bears in zoos in the USA, I will occasionally include some international polar bear stories.

In the past four years, there has only been one polar bear cub born in a United States Zoo. That is Siku, born two years ago to Crystal and Marty at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio. Last year, little wild Qannik, an abandoned cub, was rescued in Alaska. Both cubs are now living at the Louisville Zoo.

There is also a new cub in the Toronto Zoo this year, cute little Hudson. The St. Felicien Twins a couple of years ago in Quebec also stirred the hearts of polar bear lovers.

But we do have polar bear cub news out of Europe. Here we go on a detour to Germany, to celebrate the news from Zoo Wuppertal in Germany about the debut of little 3 month old cub Anori, daughter of Vilma and Lars.

With the birth of her daughter on January 4, 2012, ten year old Vilma finally gets a chance at happiness. Anori was born and took her first steps in the special mother-and-cub habitat at Zoo Wupperal. The world has really taken notice of this little lady. Her first pictures and videos are everywhere. Anori is remarkable not only for her cuteness, but also because she is the half-sister of the late Knut of the Berlin Zoo, who died just about a year ago at age 4. Knut was the world's most famous polar bear.

Here is a link to Anori's debut on March 29. Mom Vilma is very protective of her little daughter.

Last Spring

These following pictures are from last spring, when I visited Vilma and Lars at Zoo Wuppertal on a rainy day in May, shortly after the end of polar bear mating season. On the day I visited, the two bears were getting along, but not interacting very much. However, I have heard that a month earlier it was a different story, and the two bears couldn't get enough of each other. 

Vilma and Lars

On the day I visited in May of 2011, Vilma and Lars were roaming around the main polar bear enclosure, which is not cub-friendly with all its steps and drop-offs, but provides an interesting habitat for the adult bears. The mother-cub area is smaller, and cub safe. The adult bears were given access to this area as well, but on the day I visited, they were in the main habitat. Vilma spent some time pacing, with her signature sudden twirling of her head as she turned, over and over. But she did spend some time swimming, and running up and down the stairs. Lars mostly concentrated on a snack.
Lars has a snack

Vilma looked thin last spring, which I think may have been the result of Lars' relentless amorous attentions during mating season. But she looked happy. Lots of smiles. Her coat had dirty spots, but after she went swimming, the dirt was gone.

Vilma's story

Vilma was born to Vienna and Churchill in Rostock Zoo in Germany in the spring of 2002. When she was two years old, she moved to Tiergarten Nuremburg where she lived happily with another lady bear Vera, and young handsome Felix.

Then came the unpleasantness after Vilma and Vera both gave birth in late 2007 to cubs. No one knows what really happened, and Vilma was a young, not quite 6 years old, a first-time mother. Some say that reporters and photographers disturbed the new mothers, making too much noise outside the den. Some suspect that Vilma's two cubs may have been sick or even died. There were no cameras installed in the den. All we know is she gave birth to two cubs, and seemed to be taking good care of them, but in early January of 2008, Vilma's cubs were just gone one day, and the assumption was that she ate them, something that happens when a cub dies, or is sick. Anyway, there was a public outcry against the zoo and against Vilma, who was just doing what her polar bear instincts dictated. None of what happened was in any way her fault. But she was vilified by the public, and according to newspaper accounts, Vilma was called horrible names by the visitors.

Also in early January, Vera started acting strangely with her surviving cub, taking her outside and dropping her. The zoo rapidly reversed its policy on non-interference, and decided to take the cub and hand-raise “Flocke,” who quickly became a worldwide media sensation and gave quite a boost to zoo attendance.

A few months after Vera and Vilma had their cubs, Felix moved to the Aalborg Zoo in Denmark in the spring of 2008, where he took up with resident ladies Malik and Vilma's older sister Victoria, with both of whom he eventually had cubs.

When celebrity cub Flocke was old enough to need a home of her own at Tiergarten Nuremburg, Vilma was moved back to Rostock, and at Rostock, the only male bear around was her father, the mean Churchill. So Vilma didn't have a chance to have more cubs. I had always hoped that young Vilma would find a home where she would have a chance at proving that she could be a good mother. At Rostock, Vilma shared a home with her mother Vienna, and just waited.


Lars, born in December of 1993, was Knut's father in the Berlin Zoo. He had moved to Zoo Wuppertal in October of 2009, where he was introduced to a lovely 20 year old lady name Jerka. They got along beautifully and playfully, and everyone had high hopes for the pairing. But tragedy was to come. In June of 2010, both Jerka and Lars became terribly ill with a sudden mysterious illness that damaged their kidneys. Sadly, Jerka did not recover, and Lars was on the brink of death, but finally did recover. And although Lars would not know it, his celebrity son Knut died at the Berlin Zoo suddenly in March of 2011.

In the fall of 2010, Vilma moved to Zoo Wuppertal, where Lars was living.

Vilma paced, and as she turned, she twirled her head



Vilma considers going swimming

Vilma wears a dirty patch on her fur


 After an active Spring together, and a companionable summer, Vilma was shut up in the birthing den at the zoo in the late fall, where she gave birth to two cubs. This time there was a den cam, and the world was treated to a few photos of Vilma cuddling her little baby, named Anori, which means “The Wind.” One of the cubs had died at the age of one week, and Vilma buried that cub. But Anori was strong. This time Vilma is getting to raise her baby.

So for now, Vilma is a busy new mom, tending to her cub and enjoying having the visitors tell her what a wonderful mother she is. Vilma, you are a very good mother.

No comments:

Post a Comment