Four human foster mothers are sharing the task of raising a pair of abandoned polar bear cubs born in captivity.
Heartening video and pictures show how the babies have taken to their new mums who care for them 24/7 at a safari park in Russia.
The spurned cubs receive manicures and massages as well as warm milk, and now at seven weeks old are growing rapidly.
Successfully breeding polar bears in captivity is exceptionally rare and has never happened previously in Russia.
The seven-year-old mother, Seryozhka, from the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic, built a den for her new cubs at a safari park in Gelendzhik, but then rejected the crying pair.
However, she did not harm them, and keepers stepped in to raise them.
The foster mothers are twins Anastasia and Olesya Sakhatskaya, both 39, Maria Moroz, 32 and Yelena Milovidova, 31.
‘They don’t seem to distinguish between the four of us,’ said Elena.
‘They know the scent of our skin and clothes, and sensing any of us getting close to them means just one thing: mother is here, and food is coming.’
‘There were no previous cases of nurturing polar bear cubs rejected by their mother in a Russian zoo,’ said Yelena Milovidova, deputy director of the Gelendzhik Safari Park.
‘This is the first experience for us.’
‘In the world there were only five or so cases of polar bear cubs raised since birth in captivity.
‘I do hope that we will succeed
Attempts to coax the mother to give milk to feed her rejected cubs failed, but she gave blood which was used to give serum to the babies, vital as an immunity boost.
Russia has successfully reintroduced to the wild brown bears as well as Amur leopards and tigers – but these polar bears will never be released.
The cubs – whose father is a polar bear at a zoo in Siberia – now weigh over four kilograms, and recently opened their eyes for the first time.
They should now start doubling in weight every couple of weeks.
At three months, they will start with outdoor walks.