A Switzerland zoo has recently euthanised a healthy brown bear cub because his father was getting aggressive with him and they didn’t want to raise him in solitude.
Misha and Masha, two bears given to the Dählhölzli zoo by then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in 2009, had two cubs earlier this year.
In the wild, mother bears protect their cubs by driving away the father because they often see them as rivals and try to kill them.
That’s exactly what happened last week when Misha killed one of the cubs in front on zoo visitors.
Zoo staff refused to separate the couple because it would cause “massive behavioural disorders” because of their “extremely strong bond with each other,” and instead chose to kill the other 11-week-old cub before his father did it.
The Swiss Animal Protection said the zoo had completely mishandled the situation because ‘it is not natural to keep the male bear with the offspring, and there was more than enough space to have kept him in a separate part of the cage.’
Zoo deputy director Jürg Hadorn said: ‘After 12 weeks it was clear that Masha was irreparably neglecting her role as mother of cub number four.
‘Together with the fact that the male bear Misha had started demonstrating the same aggressive behaviour as he did to cub number three, in order to protect cub number four from more stress and pain, we decided to act. As a result the baby bear was euthanised by a vet.
‘It remains unclear now as then as to why our bears behaved in this way. After killing cub number three on April 2 there was an uneasy truce for 48 hours but since the weekend Misha again started to show the same aggression.
‘Attempting to distract them and temporarily separating the older animals has only brought short-term easing of the situation. But it also resulted in Masha ignoring the cub even more.
‘Misha and Masha are lovely hand-reared orphaned bears who came to us in 2009. They never had the chance to learn from other bears how to behave and their mothers were killed by poachers.
‘We have tried when they were here to keep as much distance between them and humans as possible. Our priority is the two adult bears.
‘Having young animals is a natural part of the life cycle of every animal and we wanted to ensure that Misha and Masha had the chance as well. But the loss of the young animals in a biological sense and also according to basic principles of good animal protection are less serious than the loss of an adult.
‘The loss of cub number four has affected all of us here. Because Misha and Masha appeared to be clearly unable to fulfil their role as parents, Misha will be sterilised in the next few weeks.’
Since the killing of the giraffe Marius in Copenhagen became viral in February, news of animals being killed in zoos have been making headlines. According to the European Association of Zoos, between 3,000 and 5,000 healthy animals are put down every year across Europe.
Images: Dählhölzli Zoo Facebook