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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Doubly aww-some: First twin girl-and-boy polar bear cubs to survive in China pose for the cameras

By Ted Thornhill

Got a lotta bottle: Raisers feeding the twin boy-and-girl polar bears at Dalian Laohutan Ocean Park in China

These great big cute balls of white fur are an amazing success story – because they’re the first twin girl-and-boy polar bears in China to make it beyond cubhood.

The pair were born on January 7 this year at the Dalian Laohutan Ocean Park, which declared today that at 109 days old, they are officially young adults.

They will both grow into enormously powerful animals, easily capable of killing a human – but that’s hard to imagine when you look at pictures of them having fun as baby bears.

When they were very little a colourful blanket was one of their favourite places to sleep. They would curl up together on it without a care in the world.

It’s a far cry from the freezing Arctic conditions that they’d be enduring in the wild.

Their home in China’s Liaoning Province also contains beluga whales, sea otters, sea elephants, dolphins and penguins – but it’s safe to say that the young polar bears are going to be one of the star attractions.

Life's a dream: The twin bears send the cuteness meter to 11 as they sleep on a patch-work style blanket

At bear-ly four months old, the cubs are still almost as big as their handler, who cradles them in her arms as they drink milk. The male will eventually weigh between 350 to 680kg, with the female reaching roughly half that size.

Captive polar bears are fairly rare. There is now only one left in Britain after Mercedes, who live at Edinburgh Zoo, was put down on April 15 following a string of health problems.

There was, of course, more polar bear heartbreak this year with the death of Knut, who died at Berlin Zoo last month just four years into an expected life span of between 15 and 20.

Thirsty work: The twins are looking a little less cub-like now and will soon be dwarfing their handlers

The polar bear rose to global fame after he was rejected by his mother when he was born in captivity on December 5, 2006. The fluffy cub was shown to the public 15 weeks later, and attendance at the zoo doubled after that.

The resulting 'Knutmania' even led to a 2007 Vanity Fair cover shot with actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Some experts had warned that Knut developed psychological problems after becoming too dependent on human contact and suffering the loss of his keeper, Thomas Dörflein, who died of a heart attack in 2008.

Let’s hope that the Ocean Park pair don't suffer the same fate and enthral visitors for many years to come.

Bearing up: Out in the wild the bears would be battling sub-zero temperatures and relying on mum to fetch them food, but here they don't have a care in the world



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