#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. After several years of staying in the Krasnoyarsk flora and fauna park, the polar bear became unrecognizable. Marfa became prettier, turning into a marriageable bride.
Last fall, she was moved to an enclosure complex for polar bears – the largest in Russia and Europe. Zoologists hope that, together with the male Felix, Marfa will create a pair in the future and, possibly, bear offspring.
Visitors to Royev Roochey today can observe these predators from a five-meter height, where there is an observation deck around the new enclosures. They were built with the support of Rosneft. At the end of the year, the third enclosure of this unique complex, Hyperborea, is planned for commissioning, while the polar bear Felix is already settling in Beringia, and Marfa feels at home in Mangazeya. It is clear that the bears are comfortable here: there are places to hide from the sun, to cool off.
“We are trying to move Marfa to another enclosure to change the water in her pool. But she categorically refuses to leave the ‘apartment’. Her character is unique, she’s very independent”, Oleg Chipura, an employee of Royev Roochey, told the This Is Taimyr.
Psychologists could probably explain the reason for this. Many people remember Marfa’s story well. An emaciated polar bear was found on the outskirts of Norilsk in 2019. An entire special operation was organized to rescue her. The Nornickel company helped transport the animal to Krasnoyarsk. At Royev Roochey, veterinarians made great efforts to bring out the young bear.
“Today she is quite calm, communicates well with zoologists, and still doesn’t seem to completely trust people. No one knows exactly how the bear ended up in Norilsk”, continues Oleg Chipura. “We assume that she did escape from somewhere. These animals usually do not climb to great heights. The exception is the Himalayan bears. And Marfa climbed up the cage to the very top and tried to loosen the bars despite the fact that the height of the previous enclosure was almost 4.5 meters. So she had obviously had such experience”.
The complete opposite of Marfa is the bear Ursula, rescued in 2018 near the village of Dikson. Specialists from Royev Roochey say: both of them are about the same age, both are healthy. But Ursula is a star who loves to organize concerts. There are always people near her enclosure. Demonstrations in the pool, toys – everything is used to attract the visitors’ attention.
“Ursula really likes to splash into the water with a running start, spraying everyone with splashes. People squeal, but the beast seems to smile, zoologists are amazed. “For now, we decided to leave this bear in the upper enclosure, where visitors have the opportunity to get a better look at her, and Marfa doesn’t see them – to create calmer conditions”.
It is curious that at the bottom of the polar bears’ pool, a whole warehouse of all kinds of toys and treats is often found. In the wild, such habits are not observed. Here the animal can surprise everyone by, for example, taking out from the water a soaked cow skin that was once given to the bear for games. Here they also have other taste habits. In nature, the polar predators’ diet basis is the ringed seal and sea hare. And at the zoo they really love fish. Moreover, this is not so much food but entertainment: catch it in the pool, set it free, then catch it again.
The creation of pairs in captivity also has its own characteristics, Royev Roochey specialists emphasize. This is a complex and multi-step process. In nature, during the mating season, a female and a male can travel long distances together, thus getting to know each other. In this case, the male acts as a kind of pursuer and humbly follows the female wherever she goes. The she-bear, like a flirtatious lady, walks ahead of the groom, turning around from time to time and allowing him to come closer. Predators can stand on their hind legs and snort, which indicates their romantic mood.
As for Felix and Marfa, for now they can only watch each other, sniff from time to time and get used to their neighborhood, because the polar bears’ enclosures are separated by a protective fence. Zoologists at Royev Roochey, in turn, observe and analyze the most insignificant behavioral signals – whether males and females show anxiety in each other’s presence, what sounds they make. There are no trifles in amorous affairs. After all, even the intonation and frequency of snorting signal the attitude of the ‘young people’ towards each other.
“Felix is a phlegmatic bear, very leisurely. He is turning 17 years old this year. By bearish standards, this is a man in the prime of his life. And we noticed that when he sees Marfa, he shows excitement”, the Krasnoyarsk flora and fauna park employees rejoice.
And although Royev Roochey is in no hurry to make predictions, the efforts of specialists give hope that the pairing of Marfa and Felix will work out, and in the future predators will increase the genetic diversity of the polar bear population. After all, the role of zoos is not only to provide animals with good conditions, but also to recreate their gene pool.
Scientists fear that polar bears could become extinct by the end of the century as global warming reduces their chances of survival. We also reported that zoologists from the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Ecology and Evolution Institute learned to recognize polar bears in satellite images. The Moscow Zoo continues to rehabilitate the polar bear Dixon, rescued last year in the north of the Krasnoyarsk region.
Text: Elena Popova, Photo: Royev Roochey