ZOOM Gelsenkirchen, December 2018: Antonia and Bill

Jan 1st, 2019 | By | Category: Ralph's reports

1.1.2019 by Ralph

The first and, for me, the most important of the Polar Bears in Gelsenkirchen is the wonderful Lady Antonia. I have been visiting her since November 2006, so she is my first Polar Bear in Germany.


At first glance, Antonia looks like a young cub, or even a toy Polar Bear. But do not let this fool you. Despite her small size and short legs, “Tony”, as her keepers call her, is a lady with attitude and not to be taken lightly.


Although she cannot mix with other Polar Bears, as much for her strong temper as for her small size, Antonia has plenty of toys and other things to keep her occupied.



Like most Polar Bears, Antonia likes blankets and material. She has wonderful large brown eyes.


This blanket is mine, Antonia makes sure we know it.


Antonia likes to take a drink now and then. Her legs, which earned her the nickname “Dachshund Bear” from one of the vets at the Zoo, can be see here.


A bit of fur and face care is also needed.



Antonia can often be found resting at the water’s edge. Deep in Polar Bear dreams.


Even when standing up, Antonia will catch a quick nap. This is a technique that allows Polar Bears to wait at seal holes for hours on end. Antonia has this instinct too.


Another rest moment, but always a watchful eye on her surroundings. Antonia is always on the hunt for food.


Her senses are always active and she positions herself to get the best angles.


Her purple tongue is often out, tasting the air.

Spending time with Antonia is always a delight, but of course there are three other Polar Bears at ZOOM.

Bill is Lara’s partner, and the father of Nanook. His enclosure is near Antonia, and the two sometimes exchange grunts and sniffs.



Here, Bill is at the water’s edge looking and sniffing in the direction of Antonia.


Like Volodya in Berlin, Bill is really close to his partner. Because Lara is within sniffing and grunting distance, Bill spends a lot of time trying to be near her. He also works off his emotions by “power swimming” like Volodya.


Here’s a link to a photo which appeared in the newspapers here, just before I left. My version is above, seen from the visitors’ view.


The sharp head jerk and swings are often associated with stereotypical behaviour. I have seen film f bears doing this in the wild, perhaps for similar reasons. They will do it for a long time or hardly at all. Bill was relaxed for most of the time I saw him.



The power swim completed, Bill heads back to his favourite lady.



ZOOM is located in an area of mild climate compared with Berlin, so Bill and Lara have much shorter fur than the bears in Berlin. Only little Nanook is fluffier.


Bill is an impressive bear and well-liked by his keepers. He and Lara spend a lot of time communicating.

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  1. Lieber Ralph,

    ich glaube, dass Antonia mit ihrer kindlich gebliebenen Größe everybody´s Darling ist.
    Da sie wegen ihrer Kleinwüchsigkeit nie mit anderen Bären vergesellschaftet werden konnte,
    hat sie eine besondere Art der Persönlichkeit entwickelt, die du in deinen Bildern sehr
    treffend beschreibst.

    Bill teilt das Schicksal mit vielen Bärenvätern während der langen Trennung von ihrer Partnerin,
    da bleiben solche sportlichen Stereotypen wohl nicht aus.

    Vielen Dank für deinen ausführlichen Bericht und liebe Grüße!

  2. Dear Ralph!
    Antonia, Kati´s little sister, is a special polar bear personality. Of course she is the star of your report from the Gelsenkirchen Zoo
    She looks so cute and one can´t but love her. But she makes very clear that she is a strong character having a mind of her own. I wonder if you realized your plan to print a T-shirt with an image of Antonia and the statement: “I´m NOT nice!”
    There should be an information at the enclosure for the visitors who are enchanted by her size and look that she is not as sweet as she appears at the first sight… She is no cute and friendly little bear but a strong, often grumpy lady who knows what she wants and how to get it…This contrast between look and behaviour is exactly what constitutes her special charme.

    At the moment Bill shares the situation of other males who´s partners are raising kids. He has my wholehearted sympathy and I wish him all the best. The keepers obviously do their best to keep him occupied during this time of being a grass widower.
    Thank you for your report and the lively pics!


  3. Hallo Ralph

    Du hast meinem Liebling Antonia viel Zeit gewidmet
    und tolle Fotos mitgebracht. Aber natürlich sind auch
    die anderen Bären, allen voran Nanook, immer eine
    Reise nach Gelsenkirchen wert ! 🙂 Bill looks very
    impressive! I think, you will dedicate part II to Lara
    and Nanook – I look forward to that report. 🙂

    Chris 🙂

  4. Lieber Ralph,
    Antonia ist eine ganz süße Bärin und wirkt durch ihre Kleinwüchsigkeit immer noch wie ein Bärenkind.
    Natürlich ist sie eigen und leider ist es nicht möglich sie mit anderen Bären zusammen zu halten.
    Bill vermißt seine Partnerin und wird sich noch einige Zeit gedulden müssen bis er wieder mit Lara kuscheln kann.
    Danke Dir für deinen schönen Bericht von Antonia und Bill.
    Liebe Grüße Moni K

  5. Dear Ralph,

    Thank you so much for this charming presentation of the sweet Antonia and the gorgeous Bill.

    You’ve taken great photos of them both and it’s difficult to pick a favourite but maybe the first photo of Antonia. It’s simply fantastic!

    You were lucky to see even Bill very close. Obviously he likes to say ‘hello’ to his visitors and fans.

    I’m looking forward to the following reports from Gelsenkirchen!

    Hugs from Mervi

  6. Dear Ralph,

    Thank you for your well-written and
    informative report!

    What a good visit you had with
    Antonia and company!

    Thanks for taking us along!I

    xo k-j

  7. Dear Ralph,
    thank you for the pictures of Antonia. She is a special bear. Unfortunately we did not see the pictures of her very often.
    Bill is a big male. He has a good big enclosure.

  8. Lieber Ralph!

    Danke für dieses Porträt der Gelsenkirchener Eisbären. Antonia ist wirklich etwas ganz besonderes und du hast so liebevolle Bilder gemacht.

    Liebe Grüße und ein wunderschönes neues Jahr,

  9. dear Ralph,
    thank you so much for your interesting report from Gelsenkirchen. Antonia looks so sweet and content but Bill cannot be calm, he is thinking of his Lara .. if I were a keeper there I would often call for Antonia and give her something special, she would be my darling.
    btw did you travel alone this time without BN
    dear greetings

  10. Dear Filomena
    BN and Star Bear were with me but did not take any pictures as there was so much to do in Berlin and Gelsenkirchen.
    Happy New Year

  11. thank you for your answer,I am glad BN and Star Bear were with you,Happy New Year also to you dear Ralph