A dip in the deep end? That’s not exactly what the young polar bear Hertha likes in winter, says Florian Sicks, curator at the capital’s zoo. She likes it warmer to splash around. Hertha will be two years old on December 1st. The clumsy snow-white bear has become a handsome 180-pound teenager.
Without a bath in the moat, Hertha often looks rather gray from rolling around. She is not yet fully grown. Hertha can still be clearly distinguished from her mother Tonja, says Sicks. Polar bears are only considered to be adults between four and five years of age. They usually only get young from six.
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At the mother-daughter flat share in the zoo, a popular destination for many visitors, nothing will change anytime soon. Because in the European breeding program for zoos, further litters are not planned at the moment. There are enough polar bears in the zoos. That’s why Tonja will have to wait quite a while for her partner Wolodja, who is currently living in the Rotterdam Zoo.
Sicks does not consider it impossible that he will come back later – and Hertha might have siblings. Tonja is still young at the age of eleven. Polar bears can easily live to be 30 years old in zoos. After three years, Hertha was the first surviving cub of the polar bear pair, which originally came from Russian zoo breeding.
The mother-daughter relationship is considered to be very harmonious. So there is no reason to move the still playful young animal out. Sicks reports that Hertha is a real giant baby who still wants to hang on to mom’s teats. Even if it is much too big for that. “She just likes milk,” adds Sicks.
Otherwise, Hertha has a rather unusual taste. She likes watermelon, which would hardly be on her menu in the wild. That’s why the treat is rarely available – for a birthday on Tuesday, for example, alongside apples, pears, carrots and Hertha’s favorite fish: char.
Hertha has never experienced a real Berlin winter in her two years. So far she has hardly seen a snowflake, let alone a real ice floe in her moat. It was just too mild. Sicks hopes there will be some real polar bear weather this year.