The seven-year-old gave birth to both cubs within an hour at Munich’s Hellabrunn Zoo.
The first of the mousey grey twins weighed barely 400g, according to the Münchner Merkur newspaper. Giovanna carefully picked up the blind cub and carried it in her mouth to the neighbouring enclosure.
Less than an hour later she gave birth for the second time. Both births were quick and free of complications.
“A twin pack of polar bears in the lead up to Christmas! A zoo director and his team couldn’t wish for more,” said the zoo’s outgoing director Andreas Knieriem on Tuesday.
“Giovanna’s young are probably the first polar bear cubs in the world whose birth was captured in colour on video,” the zoo said. Up until now there only existed limited black-and-white footage of polar bears giving birth at zoos.
The footage of Giovanna was taken by a surveillance camera in the “Mother and Child House” at Hellabrunn Zoo. Since 2011 Giovanna has been taken to the birthing house on three other occasions but these turned out to be false alarms.
The animal park is now bracing itself for a rush of visitors – similar to the spike in customer numbers that Berlin Zoo experienced when Knut the polar bear was born at the end of 2006.
But Giovanna must take special care of the cubs since polar bears are at a greater risk of dying in their first week than almost any other mammal. And zookeepers must let the mother suckle and care for her young on her own – as she would in the wild.
The cubs’ 14-year-old father Yoghi must wait in another enclosure until the cubs have survived the difficult early period, according to the Merkur. In the wild it is also the case that polar bear mothers avoid their partners until the cubs are fit and healthy.