Some years ago, Lycksele Djurpark faced a nasty problem. One of the female brown bears had two 2-year old cubs. At that age, brown bear cubs living in the wild leave their mother to start their own adult life but things are a little more complicated in zoos.To make a long story short: Lycksele Djurpark failed in exporting the young bears to another zoo and consequently decided to have them killed. There’s nothing unusual about that: The mortality among bear cubs in the wild is very high and these cubs wouldn’t bring in new variation to the gene pool of brown bears kept in zoos.Unfortunately, the story broke to local media and the management of the zoo was faced with some pretty angry reactions from some members of the public. People reacted as if someone had stolen their little child’s favourite teddy bear. According to reports, members of the management even received death threats. Killing a bear cub is somehow tabu.The good news is that the next cub born in Lycksele was fathered by a bear that was born in the wild which meant that the youngster would be a well-needed supplement to the gene pool should he reach adulthood. So the zoo could not only announce that a bear was unto us born but that he would also be allowed to live.And this brings us to the story which has been making the rounds in Scandinavian media today: Knut, the cute little polar bear cub, whose life is threatened by evil animal rights campaigners.Actually, the story is a case of Rule #1 in journalism: You should never let research ruin a good story.As Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported yesterday, it is true that a German animal rights activist raised the question about whether Knut, who was abandoned by his mother at birth, should be hand-raised by staff at Berlin Zoo or killed. The activist did so in a rather convoluted way which didn’t help him getting his message through – and when Der Spiegel and Bild-Zeitung had chosen their angle on the story (“Crazy Animal Activist Wants to Kill Cute Polar Bear Cub”), there was no holding back in public opinion.But the activist did have a point – and a point experts agree on: New-born animals that are abandoned by their mothers should only be raised by humans if it serves a biological point. That Knut not only looks cute but at his young age resembles a teddy bear is a proven fact but the only real motivation Berlin Zoo has given for keeping him alive is that he is the first polar bear to be born in Berlin for thirty years.So maybe he will be a welcome addition to the polar bear pool in zoos around the world in five to six years’ time – at which point he will weigh 5-600 kilos and eat anything that comes near him. Especially those cute little seals.PS: In case you wonder, the teddy polar bear pictured above is named Bianca. You are free to guess what her brown bear companion is called.
I also managed to read Knud Romer Jørgensen’s best seller (by Danish standards) “Den som blinker er bange for døden” during the week-end. Interesting, but I’m not quite sure if it was the book of the year.