Update on the passing away of young polar bear Yura

News IJsbeer

On 11 June 2020, polar bear Yura died aged seven months from internal bleeding, presumably caused by her older, almost adult sister, Sura.

Mother Freedom and her two cubs Yura and Yuka had been living with Grandma Huggies (Freedom's mother) and Sura for several weeks. Sura is five years old and weighs almost 300 kg. In our extensive experience with breeding polar bears, we’ve had similar combinations of older and younger animals and it was never a problem.  Sura and the cub played together regularly, always under the watchful eye of their mother and grandma.

Once all the polar bears were together, Mother Freedom protected her cub more intensively than before. We didn't know she was like that. In retrospect, this was already a sign something was wrong.However, when Sura started playing roughly with the much smaller Yura (65 kg) – we don’t think it was a deliberate attack – Mother Freedom stayed on the side-lines. She no longer defended her cub.

We believe the autopsy results explain this behaviour. It shows that Yura had been suffering from a respiratory infection, but that she didn’t yet appear to have had any symptoms. Based on Mother Freedom's behaviour, we suspect that she "knew". It’s common knowledge that mothers sometimes don’t take care of newborn cubs if they know something is wrong. In this case, Freedom let "nature" run its course.