Mar 14, 2014 10:52 AM by David Randall
BREMERHAVEN, GERMANY - Polar bear fans in Germany caught a glimpse of a three-month-old female cub's first steps this week after it left the cave it was born in for the first time.
The baby bear was photographed outside its birth cave at Bremerhaven zoo in northern Germany -- its first venture into the outside world since being born on December 16.
Up to now, visitors to the Zoo am Meer had only been able to watch videos and photos of the young family inside the cave as the cub stuck close to its mother.
"We try to simulate life in the wild as accurately as possible and will probably let the mother Valeska and her offspring go out in the open by mid-April," says Dr. Joachim Schoene, veterinarian and curator at the zoo, which was founded in 1928 and rebuilt for nearly $40 million between 2000 and 2004.
Ten days ago, Schoene and his team made their first physical contact with the young polar bear, an encounter which allowed them to vaccinate the cub and identify its gender.
With the help of local radio and newspapers, the zoo has asked the public to suggest some "happy names," which a jury will pick from next week.
The little cub, which has its own YouTube channel, has been described "as very playful" and "in good health."
Zoo officials who have been watching the cub develop via four infrared cameras say it is feeding well and now weighs nearly 18 pounds.
The last healthy polar bear at the Bremerhaven zoo was born 41 years ago, so zoo workers are "very excited" about the newcomer and happy to share a few amusing moments, Schoene said.
"We always say that the cub sounds like a broken car starter" while drinking its mother's milk, he explained.