Bears in Berlin – real and remembered: December 2019

Jan 12th, 2020 | By | Category: Ralph's reports

12.1.2020 by Ralph Morton

December in Berlin is the time we remember Thomas Doerflein and Knut.




Sabine, La Dame Blanche, has marked these anniversaries since the earliest days.


It is hard to think that Knut would have been a mature 13 year old Polar Bear today. Presumably he and Tonja would have lived together either in the Zoo or the Tierpark.


Knuts left ear, like that of the hippopotamus, Knautschke, has been rubbed so often that it is golden.

The Ukrainian sculptor has captured Knut in the pose we remember so well. For me, he is always present, looking up at me and hoping for a croissant or a herring!



The wonder of life is that it continues. Tonja has a daughter, Hertha. She is at the age we remember Knut in December 2007.



I was never able to get this close to Knut in 2007, but my shopping bag always works as a bait for young Polar Bears.




Nothing can compare with the beauty and intelligence of a curious and lively Polar Bear cub.



Thomas Doerflein had to endure many bites from the young Knut, Hertha was keen to get at the contents of my bag.


On the way to the Polar Bear enclosure in the Tierpark is this statue of a cub, riding on its mother’s back.


The artist has captured the bond between mother and cub.


Here is the real thing, Hertha and Tonja enjoying a rest on the mound which will forever be associated with the old Polar Bear Oma, Aika.


Both mother and daughter are alert and watchful.


Sleeping on Mum’s back is a favourite position for all cubs.


I love this description of Tonja as a “strong willed” Polar Bear female. The keepers in the Tierpark describe her as the best Mum ever.


Hertha has earned the title “Princess” from the keepers and in the meantime is much larger than this official plaque.




I love spending time sitting opposite “Aika’s mound”. Those visitors who claim that Polar Bears do nothing should look at these pictures. They are hardly ever still.


I think Oma Aika is looking down at her successors in the Tierpark with great love and pride. I am pleased that Herr Balkow, their long time keeper, was present for the Birthday party in 2019.


Ludmila arranged for us all to meet at the excellent “Doro” restaurant in West Berlin. Tonja would not let me invite Hertha but my own Knut was there to enjoy the green Berliner Weisse drink which resembles the water in his pool!


BN prefers Staropramen beer but he was happy to join in our celebration of the lives of Polar Bears real and remembered.

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  1. Hallo Ralph

    Du hattest Glück, Hertha so nah zu sein.
    Tonja und Hertha sind ein tolles Mutter-
    Kind-Gespann. Ich mag die Berliner
    Weisse auch mit Waldmeister – sehr
    lecker. Danke für deine Bericht ! 🙂

    Chris 🙂

  2. Dear Ralph,
    the time in December is always sad for me. I loved Knut and never wanted to see him as a sculpture.
    It is great to see Tonja with Hertha. The pictures at the glass are wonderful.

  3. Thank you very much dear Ralph.
    We will never forget Knut and Aika. We will always love them.
    Best wishes to Tonja and Hertha.

  4. Dear Ralph!
    Thank you for your thoughts and conclusions.
    I´m happy for you that you had a good time with Tonja and Hertha.
    You are right: young polar bears are enchanting.


  5. Dear Ralph, I am sure that the old Aika is watching Tonja and Hertha and making sure that they are safe. And of course, she is proud that her old throne got good heirs.
    Just like you wrote, it is almost impossible to imagine that Knut would have been 13 years now, a young polar bear male in the power of his life. Unfortunately for him and us, faith took another direction. I know that it may sound strange but I am still thinking of him every day. And I cannot tell how many times I wake up with the wish that somebody would tell me that it was just a bad nightmare and that Knut is still there healthy and alive. And just like Ludmila wrote, I too never wanted to see him as a sculpture.
    But I am very happy that you bring us updates about the other polar bears in other zoos (with a little help from BN, of course otherwise you might run forlorn, isn’t it).

  6. Lieber Ralph,

    danke für diesen wunderschönen Eintrag über deine Erinnerungen und Gedanken an Knut und Herrn Dörflein
    mit deinen Fotos von Hertha zum Vergleich damals mit Knut. Ich wusste nicht, dass man Hertha so nahe an der Scheibe sehen kann, sodass sie neugierig wie alle Bären deine Tasche ansehen konnte.
    Auch die Bilder von Hertha auf dem Rücken und angelehnt an ihre Mutter Tonja sind sehr berührend.
    Mister BN ist immer ein treuer Reisebegleiter und Talisman bei deinen Bärenbesuchen, das hat in seiner Beständigkeit auch etwasTröstliches.

    Herzliche Grüße

  7. Dear Ralph,

    What a wonderful hommage to the polar bears in Berlin! We will never forget our Knut – he brought us all together and he’s still the guiding star in the polar bear sky.

    The close-ups of Hertha are fantastic showing us what an adorable bear girl she is.

    I’m sure both you and BN enjoyed the Berliner Weisse ….. 😀

    Thank you so much for this lovely report!

    Hugs from Mervi

  8. Lieber Ralph!

    Danke fuer die bittersuessen Erinnerungen an Knut und Thomas, beide unvergesslich fuer uns!

    Die Bilder von Hertha und Tonja sind wunderbar.

    Liebe Grursse, Erika