Rhodes (France) (AFP)

Two black bears, Dakota and Carolina, born on February 1 at the Sainte-Croix animal park in Rhodes (Moselle), were presented to the public on Thursday for the first time.

The two cubs, barely out of their lair, rushed on the tree trunks in the enclosure dedicated to them, quickly gaining height under the watchful gaze of their mother Willow, 4 years old.

The plantigrade, of which it is the first litter, turns out to be "a very good mother", underlines Jan Vermeer, animal director at the park which covers 120 hectares and attracted more than 350,000 visitors last year.

Dakota has redder ears than Carolina's, who is very curious.

The two four-month-old hairballs are still breastfed, but are already feeding on "fruits, vegetables and honey, a little nuts and lots of grass and clovers," says Vermeer.

The cubs and their mother live in a separate enclosure adjacent to the space dedicated to the rest of the group of black bears, which cohabits with coyotes. "We keep visual, even olfactory contact with the little ones, but the contact with the adults will be done in a few months, when they will be a year old," said Blanche Casagrande, park communications officer, recalling that Carolina and Dakota weighed only 300 grams at birth.

It is the first birth of black bears in the animal park, which has only been reopened to visitors residing in "lodges" since May 20 due to the coronavirus epidemic.

In recent months, "all the emblematic animals in the park have had babies, it's fabulous", rejoices the co-director of Sainte-Croix, Pierre Singer, enumerating "lynx, coyotes, elks, reindeer, wolves, dogs of meadow, raccoons ".

A few pens further on, the microchipping of four small raccoons born on April 17 is the occasion for a first complete examination.

A chip "the size of a grain of rice" is inserted "into the fat of the neck" and will allow the animal to be followed throughout its life.

"Almost all animals must be identified by a chip or a ring according to their national or international protection status," said Tatiana Beuchat, assistant zoologist in charge of the animal register.

Parc Sainte-Croix, opened in 1980 to promote European wildlife, has some 1,500 semi-free animals.

© 2020 AFP