Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Loaves and Fishies for Frimas' twins

Big loaves of bread make great floating toys in their pool,
 and then you can eat the bread.

One of the girls with a delicious fish

Nivi and Elva are adorable and active little polar bear cubs, and they want to play. Here they are, six months old. Their Dutch zoo does not believe in giving them buckets and balls and barrels and traffic cones with which to play, so they have their fun with their food.

Frimas is a great mom. This is her third set of twins

Their mother Frimas, now raising her third set of twins  in Dierenrijk in Nuenen, the Netherlands, was born in the Canadian wilds in 2002, and rescued as an orphaned cub. She lived in zoos in Quebec and Calgary in those early months, then Zoo Sauvage in St. Felicien for seven years. Frimas flew across the ocean in 2011 and came to Nuenen, where she met Henk. A year later she gave birth to Pixel and Noordje in November of 2012. Pixel is now at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Great Britain, where he lives with his grandfather Victor and two other young male bears. Noordje is in Emmen in the Netherlands with three other young female bears.

Frimas with Nicky and Simona in 2016

Three years later, Frimas gave birth to Nicky and Simona, first thought to be twin boys, and even named after a famous Dutch singing duo, but later deemed to be girls. These sisters now live together in Hermival-les0Vaux zoo in Normandy, France. 

Now she is raising Nivi and Elva, who are definitely tested and chipped as girls.
Frimas with Nivi and Elva

Henk, the father of all three sets of twins, was born in November of 2005 in Ouwehands Zoo in Rhenen, the Netherlands, not far from Nuenen. He was one of a rare set of triplets, born to Huggies and Victor. His sister Ewa lives in Sweden now, and his brother Jelle lives in St. Felicien, Canada, and has just fathered two cubs himself with two different mothers. Cousins!

Father Henk. He has a nice big enclosure next door, with a big pond.

Mother polar bears have great patience

The announcement of names

Nivi and Elva are so similar, 
they cannot be told apart except by the chip reader

Nivi and Elva spend their time nursing, napping and playing

Unlike most zoos, Dierenrijk does not allow toys because they see plastic objects as unnatural. The girls have themselves to play with, plus sticks and swimming. Thus when food is presented, it is seen as a toy as well, for cubs love to play with it, for they need to play.  

Still napping, almost ready to play

Time to wake up

Here we go, chasing around the meadow
 In most zoos, mother polar bears use toys as tools to teach their children about being a predator, about hunting. Toys and interesting objects are provided as enrichment for the bears, who are intelligent and very curious. By playing with toys in the water, the cub learns stealth, to sneak up on prey, to attack, to destroy, and problem solving. They love puzzles. It may look like they are having fun, but play is serious work for a polar bear cub.  They practice their ice floe pouncing. They pretend to attack their sibling or their mom, and in most zoos, toys. 

Ready to pounce
 In the wild, polar bear mothers can teach their cubs about hunting prey by actual hunting, by showing them and letting them experiment.   

In Nuenen, without toys, the cubs play with each other or with their mom. They wrestle, they throw around sticks and clumps of grass.

Playing with clumps of grass

 And they play with their food.

Lunch has arrived. Fish, vegetables and lots of bread loaves

The view from the main window, over the pond.

 You can see the polar bear family through the main window, which oversees the pond and meadow.  The other view window is across the way, as you can see in the photo, but because of construction of the new Rhino habitat to the right, the normal path to the right is closed off, and it is a long detour to the left to get from one polar bear viewing window to the other. 

One of the many Snowy Owls

The third viewing window is currently inaccessible because of Rhino construction. It is still nice to walk down to where the path ends, though, because when you walk through the magical owl tunnel, where you are surrounded by a lush habitat occupied by over a dozen owls, mostly snowy owls. 

Waiting for lunch

Frimas knows it is time

Something for everyone. You can see the Rhino construction here 
behind the polar bear meadow

Bread loaves make perfect floating toys

Share with mom?

Some fish?

More bread

Thanks, Mom

She loves her loaf. It is a pool toy


Tug of war

A mouthful
What are you doing, Sis?

Fishing at poolside

Let me help

Good bread. Enough for everyone.


Taking a big bite

Cubs treat the bread as prey, playing with it

She tries to get in onto land

Don't let it get away

Here comes Frimas

Mom will help

There's more bread


Someone found the fish

Snack sized fish

Using both front paws
Not getting away

Almost gone

Just the tail left

Some melon

One of the cubs tries to steal from mom

Fishing out the melon

Will Mom share?

 Father Henk gets some bread too. And fish and vegetables.

Henk savors the flavor

Not a toy, just a good snack for Henk

Really good.

Do you want some?

You can't have mine! says Henk

Yawn. I'm tired. Frimas and the cubs take a nap

Time for a rest.


  1. Dear Molly! What a wonderful report with fantastic photos! I guess many human kids are envious to Elva and Nivi who are not only allowed but expected to play with their food. :-)))
    Hugs from Mervi

  2. It turns out that Nivi is a boy ☺