From Russia with love: The doting father bear who can’t help cuddling his cub
This is the touching moment a baby bear gets swept up in a big cuddle - from her affectionate father.
What makes the photographs, taken at a zoo in eastern Russia, so fascinating is that most male bears have nothing to do with their cubs and leave the rearing to females.
But Balu is more hands-on than most with four-month-old daughter Diva and is content to give her a proper bear hug.
He even appears to be blowing a raspberry on her tummy while mother Masha looks on. Keepers at Primorsky Zoo in Russia were stunned by Balu’s unusual devotion to his daughter.
Zoo director Elena Aseidulina, 34, who took the photographs, said: ‘The father, against all laws of nature, is very caring and loving with the cubs.
‘Normally, it is the mother that looks after the children, but Balu is the exception.
‘He is a real example of a good father.’
Balu and Masha have been living at the zoo since 2002 after they were rescued by Russian militia from poachers. The pair have settled in well - and are clearly enjoying their roles as parents.
Keepers also noticed that Balu has taken on nearly all the traditional ‘female’ roles carried out by brown bears - including teaching their young about the dangers of the world.
Miss Aseidulina said: ‘Balu taught Diva to swim in the pool - she looked to her mother for help but Masha was totally calm and obviously trusted her “husband”.
‘Balu would hold her under water to teach her that swimming is an essential skill for a bear - but he always knew how long she could stay under for, and would pull her out and keep her safe.
‘When Masha is feeding Diva, 14-year-old Balu waits patiently for his turn to play with her.’
The zoo director added: ‘Once, I saw him patting the mother’s paw as if to say “Hurry up, it’s my turn to play!”’
‘It always takes my breath away when I see them playing like this.
‘It just makes you realise that these animals have the same feelings as we do. I wanted to take pictures to show others how touching and heartwarming these animals can be.’
BEARS, YOU GUYS.
OMG. BEARRRRSSS. MY FEELS.