The animals of Ranua zoo in Lapland give me so much pleasure

I love the Lappish nature with lakes, swamps, rivers and forests, specially in winter time. And the animals of Lapland give me so much pleasure, both wild animals but also tame or half-tame animals. Readers of this blog have probably already noticed I also love to spend times in the Ranua zoo near Rovaniemi. I visit there several times a year and I never get disappointed. And so was this day’s (March 20th, 2017) visit also very successful.

Ranua zoo has a new and rare resident. A polar bear cub was born on November 25th 2016 and has spent about 3 months inside the den with its mother, Venus. And finally, last Monday, the door to the den was opened and the inhabitants could come out. I had the chance today, a week later, to visit the zoo.

At my arrival I could just see the back of Venus as she entered the den for a short feeding of the cub and their mid-day nap. So I went to see all the other animals first. When I returned to the cage of the female polar bear and her cub, they were still napping. But my waiting was rewarded as Venus suddenly put out her head and sniffed in the air to be sure there were no threats to the cub outside. After that the cub was also allowed to come out. And how adorable it was! It has no name yet. The zoo arrange a name competition for the male cub on the website and the name will be final in the end of the summer.

The father, Manasse, lives behind the wall and he was very interested in the smells that came from the other side through a crack in the wall.

So far the cub will go without a name. When it was born, the cub weighed around half a kilogram, but now it is already 10 kilograms.

In the nature the male polar bears are a threat to the cubs. They could kill cubs just to get the female polar bear rutting again. When the female bear has a cub, and that could last for about 2 years, she is not the least interested in the male polar bear. That is why Venus all the time sniffed in the air to find out if there were any threating male bears nearby. The mother bear was looking out for the cub all the time they spent outside the den. There were not so many visitors watching their show today, but in the morning as I arrived there were several buses with visitors. And children from a kindergarden were singing out loud to wake up the polar bears. But that did not work and they went disappointed back to the kindergarden again without seeing the polar bear cub. I do hope they have the chance to come back one day.

The staff of the zoo are very proud of this newcomer, and for good reason, as it is extremely rare for a polar bear to reproduce in captivity. Special focus has been put on monitoring the wellbeing of mother bear Venus. She has now given birth to two polar bear cubs in Ranua zoo. Five years ago her cub Ranzo was born and brought around 150,000 visitors to the zoo. Ranzo lives in an Austrian zoo at the moment.

During this day’s visit the cup and its mother enjoyed the sunny weather and the snow in the cage. The cub wanted to play with the mother and jumped towards her several times. It was so sweet!

The Ranua wildlife park is open daily 10 am to 4 pm. You can stay in the park after closing time. Until 6 pm, if you want.

After the successful show at the polar bear place I also checked the other animals of the wildlife park. Next to the polar bears was the quiet place of the brown bears. That was quiet because the brownbears are still hibernating. They could wake up any day now, though.

Then comes the cage of the wolves. They were out walking in the snow and seemed very content with their lives. And so did the dholes, the wolverines and the lynxes. Especially the lynxes seemed to have the feelings of the spring in their hearts. It would be nice if they could have small lynx babies soon. The wildlife park is expecting a musk ox calf to be born later in the spring. Last year the first musk ox calf was born in the wildlife park. Ranua zoo is the only place in Finland where you can see musk oxes and last year’s calf was the first in 9,000 years to be born in the region of Ranua. The beavers also have small cubs at the moment. But they were all sleeping today during my visit.

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Checking out the newcomers in Ranua zoo

Today was a sunny day and 4 degrees celsius here in Rovaniemi, and I decided to make a trip to the Ranua Wildlife Park. I have not visited there since last spring and there have been some changes I wanted to check up.

At the cashier I was told the brown bears were still awake; they had not started the hibernation yet. That was nice to find out, because I was prepared I was too late to see my favourites, the brown bears, this time.

The Otters were taking a nap as I passed by, and after that I saw there were small cubs in the Wild Boars fence. They were digging in the dirt and did not pay any attention to me.

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In the Polar bear fence the male polar bear Manasse was swimming alone around in his pool enjoying the sunny weather. But the amount of visitors certainly did not disturb him nor inspire him to do any tricks with his toys. We were only a handful of visitors this Tuesday afternoon. His female friend, Venus, was moved to a fence of her own and she uses to spend more and more time inside the den. The staff of the zoo is certainly hoping for good news near Christmas about the birth of small polar bear cubs. The behaviour of Venus is pointing in that direction. I caught a quick glimpse of Venus as she was outside the den catching some fresh air.

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In the Brown bear fence it was just silent; the only inhabitant in the first fence, Malla the female bear, was probably inside the den to make preparations for the hibernation. Some orange left-overs outside the door showed she has been out eating them this morning still.

As I approached the fence for Jemma, the younger female bear, the humming voice told me she was there. She still licks her paws and the stone she is lying on and at the same time she makes the humming voice; like a content cat, just as she did last spring at my visit. I suddenly just felt sad about her. She was there all alone and had nothing else to do but to lick her paws. No visitors, no staff members, no friends. If you sometimes think you are bored and alone, you know how Jemma was feeling this day. The staff of Ranua Wildlife park had been manufacturing some tools to play with for the bears so that they would not feel so bored, but today none of the bears was playing with them. I like the idea, though.

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I miss the old male brown bear, Palle-Jooseppi, who has been put to sleep last summer because of his suffering from pains in his bones and his age, 28 years. He wa once found in the forest as a cub alone and abandoned by his mother and has been living in Ranua zoo since then. But this summer it was time for him to move to the brown bears’ heaven. R.I.P. Palle-Jooseppi!

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After the brown bear fences there is a new bridge leading to a new area.

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In the new area live the newcomers, the dholes or the mountain wolves. There are six of them. The oldest of them are Lymy, 8 years and Viuhu 5 years. The four younger dholes are only 2 years old: Jekku, Velmu, Raiku and Kuje. They were spread all over the fence at my visit. The dholes which were overseeing the gray wolves in the fence next to them, were making some nice voices. They seemed a little nervous about the near precence of the gray wolves, but they will probably get used to them eventually.

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The dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a canid native to Central, South and Southeast Asia. Other English names for the species include Asiatic wild dog, Indian wild dog, whistling dog, red wolf and mountain wolf. It is genetically close to species within the genus Canis; like   wolves and dogs. 

The dhole is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females. I wish the dholes welcome to Ranua and I hope they will find it nice and comfy in the zoo, even if the circumstances of course are nothing like being out in the wild. The dholes are endangered animals in the areas where they live.  

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After the bored brown bears and the nervous dholes, it was nice to find the wolverine couple playing together and enjoying each others presence. There will certainly be some wolverine-babies next spring.

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Another new comer in the park is the female muskox. The lonely days for the male muskox are over and they also seemed to enjoy each other’s company as they stood there eating hay together. There are no quick movements among the muskoxen; slowly, slowly everything happens.

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In the end of my visit in the Ranua wildlife park I stopped by to check on the Otters again. They were awake now and were really fuzzing around in the pool and the areas around that. They really seemed to enjoy each other’s company; the two male otters Harri and Olli. I wish they could get a female otter’s company soon.

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My conclusion of my visit is: there is really a need for a male brown bear and a female otter in Ranua Wildlife park now. The two female bears are so bored and would certainly be cheered up by a newcomer.

In the Predator Center in Kuusamoone can also get acquainted with some of the large predators that are found in Finland. At the moment, there are several bears at the Center, the oldest of which was born in 1992. Vyoti is probably the best known of all the bears. Foxes and lynx also reside at the Center. The man, Sulo Karjalainen, is living closely together with the bears, and he tells the press there are hugs and kisses between him and the bears almost every day. I wonder if there would be any suitable male brown bear to bring to Ranua zoo, that could cheer up the lonely female bears. On the homepage of the Predator Center you can among other thing follow the bearcam live.

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If you know of any other available single male brown bear, I would suggest you to contact the Ranua Wildlife park.

 

Brown bear cub Jemma in Ranua zoo

Do you remember the little brown bear cub in Ranua zoo, that got abandoned by its mom in spring 2014 and had to be taken care of by the staff? Well, now she has grown a lot since then and finally in August 2014 she got her name, Jemma, too. Ranua zoo arranged a competition among the visitors to decide the name for the young cub.

There was no problem between the bear parents Jehu and Malla, but in spring 2014 when Malla and the new born bear cub came out from the den where the hibernation had taken place, the staff in the zoo soon found out Malla was not kind to the cub. They decided to protect the cub from violence from the mother and took the cub away from her. Some bear mothers really are so violent to their cubs that they could even kill the little cub. And that was something Ranua zoo definitively did not want to happen to this cub.

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A very sad incident is also, that Jehu one day decided to escape from the zoo and got out through the fence into the surrounding forest. The staff of Ranua zoo took the hard decicion to shoot Jehu at that place, because they did not got him back in and he was not considered safe for the surrounding inhabitants of Ranua. At the moment the brown bears in Ranua are Jemma, Malla and Palle-Jooseppi; all three in separate cages.

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Well, Jemma grew up being fed by the staff from bottles. She did not miss her mother and she really likes the audience coming to watch her playing. She has come up with some special sounds as she is licking her paw. Sounds like a kitten. In between she looks up to see if anyone notices her skills. So adorable!

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You can follow more happenings from Jemmas life from the FaceBook site of Ranua Wildlife park.

The Arctic fox

The Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus or Vulpes lagopus), also known as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox, is a small fox native to the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and common throughout the Arctic tundra biome.
It is well adapted to living in cold environments. It has a deep thick fur which is brown-grey in summer and white in winter. Its body length ranges from 46 to 68 cm (18 to 27 in), with a generally rounded body shape to decrease the escape of body heat. The Arctic fox lives in some of the most frigid extremes on the planet but does not start to shiver until the temperature drops to −70 °C (−94 °F). Among its adaptations for survival in the cold is its dense, multi-layered, pelage which provides excellent insulation, a system of counter-current heat exchange in the circulation within the paws to keep core temperature, and a good supply of body fat.

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The Arctic fox eats any small creatures it can find, including lemmings, voles, ringed seal pups, fish, waterfowl, and seabirds. It will also eat carrion, berries, seaweed, insects, and other small invertebrates. The Arctic fox has such keen hearing that it can find exactly where a small animal is moving under the snow. When it has located its prey, it pounces and punches through the snow to catch its victim. Arctic foxes form monogamous pairs during the breeding season and they will stay together to raise their young in complex underground dens. Occasionally, other family members may assist in raising their young.
Metsähallitus (The National Forestry Office of Finland) is responsible for conservation, management and monitoring species on the areas which it manages. In addition, Metsähallitus has the national responsibility of promoting conservation and organizing monitoring of certain threatened species.
At the moment Metsähallitus has extended responsibility for two animals in Finland, and those are the Arctic fox and the Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis).
Metsähallitus is a state enterprise that administers more than 12 million hectares of state-owned land and water areas. Metsähallitus has the challenging responsibility of managing and using these areas in a way that benefits Finnish society to the greatest extent possible. In Lapland there are large areas that belong to the Metsähallitus responsibility areas.
Metsähallitus has been making researches regarding the Arctic fox since the end of the twentieth century and sadly to say, this year Metsähallitus did not find any activities in nests from Arctic fox in the Finnish Lapland. In fact the last time a nest from Arctic fox with puppies was found in Finland was in 1996 in Utsjoki in the very far north of Finland. The Arctic fox lives in the Norwegian fells on the other side of the Finnish border. In 2014 Metsähallitus checked on 213 nests from Arctic fox, but they did not find any marks of recent activity in them. Metsähallitus has registered 334 old nests from Arctic Fox of which 100 are in such bad shape they are not checked every year anymore.
Species of the Arctic fox were seen in Enontekiö and Utsjoki during last winter. About 100 years ago the Arctic fox was common in these areas, but has decreased dramatically since then. The reason for this has not really been found out.
WWF (World Wildlife Fund) works to make sure fragile ecosystems are supported and protected. They mitigate the effects of climate change to make sure the survival of the Arctic fox and other species.Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at twice the rate of the rest of the world. Warming temperatures are linked to many changes in the Arctic, including reduced sea ice, melting permafrost and rising sea levels and that could be one of the reasons the Arctic fox is moving north to the other side of the border from Finnish Lapland.
The Arctic fox can be seen in the Ranua Wildlife Park, Ranua Zoo.

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The brown bears in Ranua Wildlife Park love attention

After the hibernation the brown bears of Ranua Wildlife park just love to meet the visitors and get attention from people. On days with only a few visitors they are just bored. I went to the park early in the morning and made a round to the brown bears to check on how Jemma, the brown bear cub, among others is doing after the hibernation. She was just fine, sucking her paws and making a strange noise, like from a content cat. I was the only visitor at the cage and I could very well listen to her “humming”. But no other action was made from her side as long as I stayed there.

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After a short break at the hootchie with some fried sausages and sandwiches, I returned to the brown bear area. The igloo bar was not open, even if a sign at the entrance says it is open daily 11-15.00…

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At this time some groups of tourists had arrived to the park. They were also looking at the brown bears. Apparently the guide had told them to loudly applaud the bears and get their attention, as this had the effect on the bears they started to play and make funny movements. I joined one group and got the chance to see how the bears acted i front of a group and could compare it to how they acted when I was alone.

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Jemma’s mother, Malla, has learned to keep her back-paws and show it to the crowd. She got reworded for that with an apple or a carrot from the nice guide in the group. She continues showing her skills on and on until the guide tells her, this is enough, see you again tomorrow! I could see the bears very acquainted with this guide and she also told her group she used to visit here since she was 15 years old and now, as a guide, she returns regularly three times a week to see the animals.

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Next to Malla was also “the old man himself”, Palle-Jooseppi, the brown bear, almost 30 years old already. He was found in the wood abandoned as a little baby bear and brought to the zoo. He is a bit lazy and like to relax a lot, but he does not say no to an apple or two. He woke up on the call from the guide and took the position. He caught all the apples right in his mouth. And the tourists applauded his skills. He listens to the guide and rises his paws when asked to.

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Malla and Palle-Jooseppi live together in the same cage. It is a very large area. At the moment they do not seem to be interested in one another at all and spend time far away from each other. But hopefully the interest will wake up and they will make some baby bears next winter. Malla gave birth to little Jemma last winter, but unfortunately she abandoned the cub as they got out from the den together. For security reasons the staff then took the cub from its mother and placed it alone in a separate cage. A grown up mummy bear could even kill her cub if she does not like it.
Jemma’s father Jehu managed to escape from the zoo last winter and the staff did not see any other options, but to shoot him. He could become dangerous to the surrounding inhabitants of Ranua. And so, little Jemma spends time alone in the cage without a mother or a father. No wonder she has developed this habit sucking her paws and making the noise. The same noise is made by the cubs as the mother bear suckle them in the den. I feel so sad for Jemma.
Well, Jemma is used to people and wants their attention. She stood up in front of the group and danced and got rewarded with apples and carrots. That made her day, but also the tourists were overwhelmed.

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After that I did a short check on the other animals.

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As I drove back home to Rovaniemi, along the road the birches were “screaming”, “help us, oh Mighty Sun, to be released from this burden of snow!” “Send your warm rays and melt the snow around our crowns so we can stand up again!”
I love winter and snow, but spring is also a lovely time of the year, when nature wakes up again and birds return to the north from their resorts in the south during the coldest time of the year.

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It happens a lot in Ranua zoo in winter time

News about a new-born brown bear cub was told from Ranua zoo in the beginning of March. As predicted last spring, the brown bear Malla gave birth on January 8th, 2014. She stayed in her den for the hibernation period and breast-feeding the new-born female cub until March 31st, when the door was opened for her to come out. The zoo had put up cameras in the den so the birth late in the evening of January 8th could be seen by the staff in the next morning. This video is shown to all visitors to Ranua zoo as they arrive in the ticket office these days.

On March 31st Malla and the cub came out through the door and the cub met the world outside the den for the first time. The surrounding was all snow and the cub seemed a little anxious and it made a lot of voices. The video of the little cub can be seen here. Malla and her cub were kept in a smaller fence while the male bears Jehu and Palle-Jooseppi were out in a bigger fence. Malla also wanted out to the bigger fence and as she was let out there it happened she was stressed of the situation and abandoned her cub and run out and did not show any interest towards the cub any more. She acted even aggressively towards her cub and the staff at the zoo found it best to take the cub from her, for the safety of the cub. So at the moment the cub is fed by the staff of the zoo and will not be brought back to the mum any more. The mother will not recognize her own cub anymore and she will act aggressively towards a stranger. A name competition will be arranged on the home page of Ranua wildlife park to find a name for the little female bear. If everything works out fine, the cub can probably be seen in the zoo in the beginning of summer. These abandoning behaviors happened either because Malla was an unexperienced mother or due to other stress factors. In the nature she could even kill her cub, but that is now prevented by the decision to take the cub from her. Let us see how this will work out.

The father Jehu has woken up from the hibernation already and was anxiously waiting outside the den for Malla and the cub to come out to him***.

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It is amazing how tiny a brown bear cub is at birth. You may think a big bear could give birth to a much bigger cub, but the newborn is really tiny and spends many weeks on mummy’s stomach, where it gets breast-fed, and kept warm in the warm fur of mummy. In the blog from Ranua zoo you can see for yourself the amazing video from the birth of the brown bear cub and also how it has grown during the first month. It is impossible to decide the sex of the cub until it comes out from the den.

In the wolverine fence you also find only the father Rasputin running around. The female wolverine Batsi has actually also given birth to two tiny wolverine cubs and is spending time with them inside an underground den breast-feeding. The wolverine cubs were born during the weekend on March 8-9 and were caught by a camera. The cubs weight around 100 g each. In the nature the wolverine gives birth inside a cavern made of snow. Last time there were wolverine cubs in Ranua was over 10 years ago, in 2003, so this is a very special moment and predicts a busy summer with a lot of interested visitors for the wildlife park.

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Another thing that happens in the near future at Ranua zoo is that the two years old polar bear Ranzo is going to leave the zoo and move to the zoo Schönbrunn in Vienna, Austria, in the beginning of May. In the zoo Schönbrunn they are building a new Polar bear world, Franz Josef Land, which will open in April. Ranzo will meet an adorable Polar bear girl, Lynn, also 2 years old, and they will hopefully be parents next year. Ranzo’s move to Vienna is quite natural, as his grandmother, Vienna, was born there. So he returns to his roots, so to say. Still Ranzo is happily unknown of his coming destiny playing with his toys in Ranua zoo.

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This picture is of Ranzo and his mother last spring. IMG_1828

At the moment Ranzo is alone in his fence, while his mother Venus has moved over to his father Manasse’s fence and they are enjoying each others’ company at the moment. New polar bear cubs are of course expected next winter from these meetings. You can look at a video from their meetings also from the blog.

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*** Unfortunately the brown bear Jehu found a way out from his fence to the freedom in the end of April 2014. The staff of the zoo has a special security plan for incidences like this regarding brown bears’, polar bears’ and muskoxes’ escapes and the only thing was to shoot the Jehu bear, to avoid danger to people outside the zoo. The brown bear Jehu never met the new cub.

 

Expecting brown bear cubs in Ranua Wildlife Park?

I use to visit the Ranua zoo several times a year. I love to see the animals and their actions at different times of the year. In winter there are many active animals in the zoo, because this is an arctic animal zoo with animals from the region of Lapland, and so they are used to winter. During the winter the animals are more active while they during the summer season often are feeling a little dizzy because of the heat during the days and are mostly resting during the visitors’ time.

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When I visit the zoo during the winter seasons one animal is not to be seen at all. That is the brown bear. The brown bears in the nature are sleeping winter hibernation during the winter, and so are the brown bears in Ranua zoo. They use to go to sleep in November and wake up in the beginning of March. This year the brown bears woke up already in February. The staff in the zoo thinks the early wake-up is caused by the big amount of visitors who came to look at the polar bear cub, Ranzo, and the noise spread in to the dens of the brown bears. Read more about Ranzo in my post about the polar bears. Here is a link from Jehu’s first meeting with the snow in 2011.

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I visited the zoo in the beginning of May. At the moment there are three brown bears living in Ranua. They are the old Palle-Jooseppi and his son Jehu, 3 years old. Last spring Jehu got a girlfriend from another zoo in Finland, the Ähtäri zoo, and her name is Malla. Malla is four years old at the moment. The brown bears get sexually mature at the age of 4-5 years, so the expectations are high there would be one or two cubs in the den next spring when the bears wake up. The cubs are born in January-February. Here is the you tube-link from Malla’s first day in Ranua zoo last spring.

IMG_2777The possibilities for cubs in Ranua zoo next spring are quite high while Jehu and Malla spend a lot of time together and seem to get along quite well. Jehu is at the moment the last brown bear born in this zoo. His mother, Doris, got sick and had to be put to sleep a couple of years ago. After Doris was gone a new female bear, also named Malla, was brought to the zoo. The staff wanted Malla and Palle-Jooseppi to get acquainted to each other and the two bears were put together in the same cage. But it turned out something about Malla irritated Palle-Jooseppi and he hit her and then caused her death.

Last spring as the new Malla-bear was brought to the zoo she was put together with Jehu immediately. She, however, got a bit scared of Jehu’s interest, so the staff had to put Jehu away for a while to “cool down”. But at the moment there are no problem whatsoever and the two young bears seem to get very well together, while Palle-Jooseppi spends his time alone in his own cage.

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The brown bear lives in the forests and mountains of northern North America, Europe, and Asia. The Finnish brown bear lives mainly in conifer forests. The brown bear, which is active during twilight, can also be seen searching for food during the day. Brown bears are usually solitary. The male and the female spend time together during mating season in the summer, and the mother usually lives with its growing cubs until the next cub is born. The female bear gives birth to new cubs approx. every three-year.

Adult brown bears are powerful, top-of-the-food chain predators, but much of their diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, and roots. Bears also eat other animals, from rodents to moose. Last week there was a killed reindeer found just about a kilometer from the Santa Claus’ village outside Rovaniemi, most certainly killed by a bear. There is at the moment not so much other food to eat in the forest, unfortunately.

Despite their enormous size, brown bears are extremely fast, having been clocked at speeds of 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour). They can be dangerous to humans, particularly if surprised or if a person gets between a mother bear and her cubs. Almost every year there are reports of bears seen too near habitations in the eastern parts of Finland. People have all reasons to be careful when they see a bear, even though the bears are very neat to look at and every child probably has a beloved teddy bear at home in their bed.

The bears could live to 25 years of age. The adult bears are 5 to 8 ft (1.5 to 2.5 m) tall and weight 700 lbs (318 kg). The male bear is bigger than the female bear.

 

Polar Bears in Ranua Wildlife Park

It is very rare for polar bears to give birth when they are in captivity, away from their natural freedom. The first polar bear cub ever surviving its birth in Finland was the greatest Christmas present in 2011 for the Ranua Wildlife Park, situated about 90 km south from Rovaniemi. Early in the morning on November 18th, 2011, the polar bear Venus gave birth to two tiny polar bear cubs. In the year 2009 the polar bears Venus and Manasse had a polar bear cub, too, who eventually died after a few days. But this time the cub survived and is now as a one year old polar bear one of the biggest attractions at Ranua zoo and his birth definitively was an enormous success for the wildlife park with a great increase in the number of visitors.

The first 24 hours after the birth are the most critical: one-third of the cubs die during this period. Half of the cubs die before they reach the age of five days, and after a month, only 40% of the cubs born are still surviving. In the earlier times, perhaps the greatest reason for the weakened reproduction for polar bears at various wildlife parks has been the amount of outer stimulus disturbing the mother polar bear, this disturbance eventually could cause the mother to abandon its cub or even kill the cub. At the Ranua Wildlife Park, therefore, they made early protection improvements in the polar bear den and the  surroundings to offer peace for Venus to give birth to her cubs. During the time of the pregnancy and also after the cub was born, they followed the progress through microphone recordings and surveillance video cameras installed in the den.

On February 23rd, 2012, the park decided to open the door to the den and let the polar bear mother and her cub out in the snowy world of their fence. The mother bear Venus had started to move around anxiously in the den as a sign that she probably would need some nutrition. She had not had anything to eat for nearly three months. A lot of journalists were attending this remarkable happening when the door was opened. First the mother bear came out and had a look at the weather outside and tested how secure it would be for the cub to enter, too. After a while even the little cub very carefully looked out from between the fore legs of the mother. At this time the park could announce that the cub was a male bear. His weight as this time was around 10 kg.

I went to Ranua zoo in March to try to get a glimpse of the cub. I was lucky, because I got the chance to see him. The mother and her cub very seldom came out from the den and not at any predictable time. The fence is very big and the visitors never got near the cub when he was only a few months old. Later on he started to move around in the fence and they were eventually even moved to another, bigger fence. The picture I captured in March 2012 shows the mother standing outside the den and the cub is to the right of her. Not a good photo, I admit, but better than nothing…

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There was a name competition arranged to find a suitable name for the little newborn cub. Around 10,000 suggestions were given and on September 3rd, 2012, as the result of the very careful and difficult elimination of the suggestions done by the jury consisting of the Ranua Wildlife Park staff, the name Ranzo was elected as the name for the very unique polar bear cub in Finland. The jury wanted the name to be suggestive of the birth-place of the cub, (the Wildlife Park of Ranua, Ranua Zoo) and, at the same time, the name needed to be internationally ”easy” as well.

The next time I visited the Ranua zoo was in October 2012 and Ranzo was already a “big” boy, around 80 kg. Both the mother and the cub were sleeping as I arrived, but after a while Ranzo started to wake up and strolled over to his mother to have some milk from his mother. The mother bear was still breast feeding the cub and right out there in the sun shine in front of some visitors.

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After the meal Ranzo started to play around with the ice flakes on the little lake they have in their fence. They use to go swimming a lot, but at the time I was there they stayed on the shore and Ranzo was running around to find interesting things to play with. The staff of Ranua zoo provides the bears with different play toys, so he usually does not have any problems to find anything to do.

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I have visited the Ranua wildlife park several times during the seven winters I have been in Lapland, and before Ranzo was born Venus used to play around together with her sister Vanessa in the pool to amuse the visitors. The two of them always enjoyed the audience to looked up at them as they threw around balls in the pool. Vanessa was moved to another zoo somewhere in Europe as Venus had her cub, because there are not enough fences to keep all of them The father Manasse is also living in his own fence in the zoo. He is not allowed to be with the mother and the cub, because a male polar bear does not have “fatherly” feelings and he could be dangerous to the cub and even kill it. In a couple of years there are plans to let Venus and Manasse have a try for more cubs, but at the moment Ranzo can enjoy the company of his mother Venus. Ranua wildlife park keeps a blog on happenings in the park, but mostly only in Finnish. Check it out here.

These photos are of Venus and Vanessa playing in spring 2008. IMG_4114IMG_1898

In Ranua Wildlife Park there are also a lot of other arctic animals. I will tell you more about them later on. Ranua Wildlife Park offers tourists and nearby inhabitants the opportunity to see arctic animals throughout the year, in an as authentic environment for the animals as possible. The Park is open every day of the year, and the changing seasons do bring their own extra dimension to the life in the park. During winter the brown bears are sleeping, of course, but there are a lot of animals active in winter time. Often they are even more active during the winter because the heat in the summer makes them slow and sleepy during the visitors’ hours. Check out the home page of the wildlife park for the special feeding times.

The park animals consist of about 50 wild animal species and 200 individuals. In the summer, there is also a domestic animal park in the park grounds.