6/9/2013 12:53:14 PM

New Twin Cubs Cam!

By Kt Miller

It's been an exciting spring at the Scandinavian Wildlife Park. Like a meadow filled with new spring flowers, the park is teeming with newborn animals. If there's ever a time to visit the park, it's now! Ilka has six-month-old twin polar bear cubs and there are four-month-old brown bear quadruplets, a moose calf, a reindeer calf, and fawns with youthful spots still lingering on their soft brown hides.

Of course being the polar bear enthusiasts that we are, we're most excited about Ilka (pronounced ill-ka) and her twins. We're pleased to announce that we now have a new LIVE camera on Ilka and her twins! The camera will be live from 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. CST on both explore.org and the Polar Bears International website! Ilka and her twins make great morning coffee companions, and can provide a nice inspirational break from a morning of work. Take a few minutes to spend some time with our furry white friends and gain a renewed commitment to help their wild cousins.

The story of Ilka and her twins is quite remarkable. One and a half years ago Ilka gave birth to Siku. Ilka was not able to produce milk when Siku was born, so the park staff intervened and reared Siku themselves. It was an incredibly challenging, time-consuming, but ultimately rewarding experience for the park. Everything has worked out extremely well with Siku, but the park's ultimate goal was for Ilka to raise her cubs herself, with minimal human intervention.

This fall when Ilka gave birth to the twins the park tried a different tactic. Immediately after the twins were born the staff gave Ilka a medication to help stimulate her breast milk. This was a method that had never been attempted anywhere before, and it worked! Shortly after the medication was administered, Ilka began to nurse.

Since then the park has had very little intervention with Ilka and her cubs. It is wonderful to see her strong maternal instincts. Ilka has been raising her cubs on her own: nursing them, playing with them, and teaching them how to swim. It is an absolute joy to witness.

One of the greatest successes with the twins is their natural behavior. Many captive bears in substandard facilities exhibit behavior patterns that indicate stress. Ilka and the twins have an enclosure that provides them with the space and enrichment they need to develop well. Their natural behavior is a testament to this. It is obvious to see when you visit. They are very happy and at ease.

The day I visited the park it was pouring rain. And by pouring I mean that there were small lakes forming in the low points of the landscape. It seemed as though the entire population of Denmark was hunkered down inside. But when you only have one day you make the best of it. Danish photographer SÌüren Koch stopped by the wildlife park to say hello. We grabbed rain pants, rain jackets, rubber boots, and umbrellas and went out into the storm. I precariously perched my tripod on my shoulder, carefully placing an umbrella above in an attempt to keep my equipment dry.  

We went over to the large summer facility where Ilka and the twins live. They had been napping most of the morning, but now, seemingly unfazed by the rain, they began to play. Soon Ilka was leading the parade, and I watched in awe as they took turns leaping from their diving board log into the pond, putting on a show.

"Grab some popcorn folks, because this stuff is good!" I thought to myself. I was struck by how much fun they were having. Towards the end of the event Ilka remained in the water looking up at us, floating with only her head above the surface, as if she were sitting in a chair. Her cubs watched patiently from the shore. She seemed completely content. "She does this all the time," said Frank, owner and operator of the SWP. "She loves it." As we walked away I chuckled in awe. What a place, and what lucky bears ....

Stay tuned and check out the new LIVE camera to experience your own moments with Ilka and her twins. Let them comfort you, entertain you, or inspire you. Start your morning off right, let a couple adorable little polar bears light up your life. (I know... corny rhymes are my specialty, I just can't help it.)

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