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POLAR BEAR

Baby polar bear makes debut at Berlin’s Tierpark

Berlin's latest zoo celebrity, a fluffy polar bear cub, made her first tentative steps on the public stage Friday, with media hungry to anoint her the rightful successor to late lamented superstar Knut.

Baby polar bear makes debut at Berlin's Tierpark

Nuzzling her mother Tonja, taking a dip in a pool in her enclosure and sniffing the fresh air, the still unnamed three and a half month old seemed oblivious to the phalanx of cameras gathered for her coming-out at the Tierpark zoo in the east of the capital.

The new polar bear exploring her surroundings. Photo: DPA

Under grey skies, the cub splashed in the water, lolled on the grey stones outside the breeding burrow where she has lived since her birth on December 1st and gnawed on tree bark as she explored her new surroundings.

Following her media photo-op, she will be presented to the public on Saturday.

The mortality of polar bears tends to be very high in the first weeks. Tonja lost three of her cubs in less than two years.

SEE ALSO: Berlin mourns sudden death of polar bear cub

To the great relief of her keepers, the new female has made it through the crucial first three months when a captive cub's chances of survival hang in the balance.

“We're very happy with her development,” the zoo's polar bear vet Florian Sicks said in a statement.

Tierpark is hoping she will take the place in Germans' hearts once occupied by Knut, the universally adored polar bear born in 2006 and hand-reared by west Berlin zookeepers after being rejected by his mother.

Knut's worldwide fame led to appearances on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine and on German postage stamps and brought in millions of euros from visits and merchandising.

Tanja and her new polar bear cub. Photo: DPA

But the cuddly icon died suddenly of a suspected brain tumour in 2011 at the age of four, sparking grief amongst his army of fans.

A bronze statue of Knut now stands in the west Berlin Zoo.

Its Arctic habitat threatened by global warming, the polar bear is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature 
(IUCN). 

A European Union breeding plan is attempting to boost numbers of the bear,  whose population in the wild stands at around 26,000, according to the IUCN.

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PANDAS

Double trouble: Berlin’s panda twins get set for public debut

Two panda cubs born at Berlin Zoo last year charmed local media on Wednesday, a day before their debut in front of the general public.

Double trouble: Berlin's panda twins get set for public debut
The two panda cubs playing in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Five-month-old males Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan, whose names mean “long-awaited dream” and “dream come true”, were seen climbing over boulders as they explored their enclosure, watched by their mother Meng Meng and members of the press

The two cuddly cubs were the first pandas to be born in a German zoo, and have been nicknamed “Pit” and “Paule” by their carers.

The births were particularly rare as it is notoriously hard to breed pandas.

The zoo is expecting a surge in visitors when the pandas are put on public display for the first time on Thursday.

Zoo directors are planning to open more ticket desks to avoid long queues, and have arranged for security personnel to guard the panda enclosure.

Alongside their parents Meng Meng and Jiao Qing, the twins are the only pandas currently visible in Germany.

Meng Yuan and Meng Xiang being taken into their enclosure for the first time. Photo: DPA

READ ALSO: Boy oh boy! Two male pandas make debut at Berlin zoo

On loan from China, the panda couple had arrived in Berlin in June 2017 to great fanfare.

Famed for its “panda diplomacy”, China has dispatched its national treasure to only about a dozen countries as a symbol of close relations.

Berlin Zoo pays $15 million (13.4 million euros) for a 15-year contract to host the two adult pandas, with most of the money going towards a conservation and breeding research programme in China.

While the cubs were born in Berlin, they remain Chinese and must be returned to China within four years after they have been weaned.

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