In the early morning of 7 May 2019, two sun bears saw the light of day at Royal Burgers’ Zoo, a first in the Netherlands. Like all bear species, sun bears are born naked, blind and helpless, which is why the new additions to the zoo spent the first months of their lives behind the scenes in the nursery with their mother. On Friday 26 July 2019 the two cubs will be visible in the indoor enclosure for the first time.
Only 40 sun bears live in the European zoos affiliated with EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) -twelve boars, twenty-six sows and the two cubs in Arnhem whose gender is yet to be determined. Breeding is additionally difficult because of the surplus of sows, the ageing of the zoo population and the shortage of fertile boars. The birth of the two cubs was received with jubilation in Europe.
On 30 November 2018, a sun bear boar was transported from Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland to Arnhem. The chemistry between the new arrival and the two sows was immediately visible, and mating took place soon after the extremely polite initial introduction. The sow with the highest chance of fertility—according to research carried out by the German Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)—started showing behaviour that indicated pregnancy. The sow sought the privacy of the nursery where she gave birth to the two cubs in the early hours of Tuesday 7 May 2019.
A safe, secluded environment where mother and her cubs are not disturbed is essential for the survival of newborn animals in the first critical stages of life. Thanks to a pre-installed camera, zookeepers and biologists could remotely monitor the animals. Patience is rewarded, and on Friday, 26 July 2019, the long-awaited moment will be there: the bear cubs will finally show themselves to the visitors and employees of the Arnhem zoo.