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Tallinn Zoo's Friida the polar bear loses her cubs again

Friida in her enclosure in Tallinn Zoo.
Friida in her enclosure in Tallinn Zoo. Source: Inari Leiman

Friida the polar bear lost her entire litter of three cubs over the weekend, Tallinn Zoo reports.

This was the third time that Friida, and her "partner," Rasputin, had lost cub litters since 2021.

Former director of Tallinn Zoo told ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade" that Friida is, at 21 years of age, simply too old for viable births to take place.

Maran said: "After the first incident, the zoo did everything it could to ensure that everything was in place as much as possible, also consulting with international experts."

The second loss of cubs occurred last December last year.

Maran suggested that three pregnancies resulting in either still births or the loss of the cubs soon after the birthing indicates issues with Friida's reproductive system.

Hopes had been high that Frida and Rapsutin would produce offspring, not the least that while Frida was born in captivity, one of her parent bears had been taken from the wild.

Rasputin had been brought to the zoo from the U.K. in 2020 for the specific purpose of siring cubs with Friida.

A reproduction expert visited the zoo, on Paldiski mnt., in the summer, and gave recommendations on how to better prepare Friida for birthing and for providing her cubs with the best conditions.

This included ensuring complete silence in the vicinity of Friida and the cubs' enclosure; noise can cause stress to the animals, and zoo staff monitored nooise levels in the run-up to the birth, sealing off the surrounding area to all vehicles around a month before due date.

Rasputin, the father, is house in a separate outdoor enclosure, so as not to cause any disturbance, while even zookeepers kept away from the maternity den as Friida went into labor.

Frida had also undergone an expert checkup by a specialist from Denmark. and when this showed up no irregularities, along with advice from the coordinator of the European Breeding Program, the decision was made to give Friida another, likely last, chance to rear cubs. Friida and Rasputin were left together to carry out the necessary preliminaries in March.

Once born, no attempt was made to hand-rear or bottle feed the cubs, in order to avoid hampering species-specific behavior.

While the cubs started crowning late last Friday, none survived much beyond that. The last cub was stillborn; Friida accepted all three cubs but the two survivors had unfortunately passed by Monday morning.

In addition to the line taken about not hand rearing the cubs, separating them from Friida in an effort to save their lives

An autopsy on all three is being at the Estonian University of Life Sciences (Maaülikool), to determine the cause of their death.

Tiit Maran was unable to say whether Rasputin will stay in Tallinn or be moved on, adding that the latter eventuality seemed "logical" given his heritage.

In any case, there is no danger of Tallinn Zoo losing its polar bears at any time – with more than 500 in zoos across Europe, healthy cubs are born each year, and the issue is more where to house them, than anything, Maran said.

Worldwide, species coordinators oversee the selection of breeding pairs of polar bears in captivity, and provide advice and monitoring on the ground.

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Editor: J.J. Oidermaa, Karmen Rebane, Andrew Whyte

Source: ERR Novaator, 'Ringvaade,' interviewer Marko Reikop.

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