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The Siberian Times

Six zoo staff play foster parents to polar bear cubs whose mother rejected them

By The Siberian Times reporter
14 January 2021

Only a handful of such cubs worldwide have been successfully nurtured in captivity.

 Recently the cubs, still unnamed, opened their eyes. Picture: Safari Park Gelendzhik

Two polar bear cubs - a male and a female - were born at the beginning of December to a seven year old mother bear Seryozhka from Novaya Zemlya, and an 18 year old male bear Sedov from Krasnoyarsk. 

Both bears currently live in Gelendzhik safari park in the south of Russia.

‘Sadly Seryozhka the mother declined the den we made for her, and showed no signs of maternal instinct. We had to take the cubs away, and six of us including myself acted as mothers to the newborns, keeping a non-stop eye to make sure they were warm and had enough milk’, said Yelena Milovidova, deputy director of the Gelendzhik safari park.

There were less than 20 polar bear cubs across the world successfully raised in situations when mothers refused to look after them. 

In nature male bears have no role in bringing up cubs, with mother responsible for nurturing blind, tiny and helpless cubs during the critical first weeks after birth. 

‘This is a unique experience for us, and incredibly precious experience for the rest of the world because in all there were less than twenty cubs raised in captivity without mother’s help during last 50 years. This statistics is incomparable to any other wild animal like elephants or orang-utan. To nurture a polar bear cub is a task next to impossible’, Yelena Milovidova said. 

The team of the safari park trained the mother bear to give blood, and used blood serum as a way to provide the cubs with the first vital immunity boost which normally comes with mothers milk. 

Recently the cubs, still unnamed, opened their eyes. 

The team of foster mothers decreased to four women as the immediate danger to the cubs’ life is over.

Comments (7)

Very cute. It is amazing the bond you created.
Masha, Novosibirsk, Russia
15/02/2021 09:17
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Pups in general tend to steel our hearts. But these specially. The team is doing a wonderful job. Hopefully they will eventually be returned to the wilds and live happily ever after.
Rixt, Netherlands
02/02/2021 20:13
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Such an awesome story, high fives and hugs to your staff with this monumental task! Many Prayers for staff and baby bears to survive, the world needs polar bears, my favorite animal ever!
Patrick J. Wisniewski, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA
21/01/2021 01:34
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Thank you so much for taking on those babies as your own. It just goes to show in a real big way that it doesn't have to be a blood relative who loves you and takes you in for life as family. I pray that they all grow to be be great big healthy beautiful bears. Thank you for being great people.
Stephanie Haynes, Littlr Rock Arkansas USA
18/01/2021 17:07
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Wonderful puppies!!!
Paola, Italy
17/01/2021 20:08
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Cute baby Umka ! Thanks
Jocelyne, FRANCE
16/01/2021 14:33
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Thank you so much and huge big polar bear hugs to Yelena Milovidova and her marvelous team of substitute mama's for achieving the near to impossible...

Clever, wise and lucid thinking to train the mother bear to give blood, then using this serum for the initial vital immunity boost for the adorable bundles of snow white fluff to survive...Nothing is impossible in life; when the wisdom, will and determination are there...
Anonymous, Switzerland
15/01/2021 22:44
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