Closings & Delays

Zoo euthanizes healthy bear cub to teach children ‘nature can be cruel’

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(CNN) — A zoo in Switzerland is the latest to be embroiled in controversy, after it not only killed a healthy bear cub but will now stuff and display it to teach children that “nature can be cruel.”

Details of the fate of the baby brown bear, known only as Cub 4, come on the heels of outrage over the killing by Denmark’s Copenhagen Zoo of a young male giraffe named Marius and four lions.

The Dahlholzli Zoo in the Swiss city of Bern said it decided to put down the bear cub after its father, named Misha, mauled its sibling to death and threatened to do the same to Cub 4.

According to a media release, the zoo initially decided not to interfere with the bears’ “natural” behavior.

But when it was observed that the mother, Masha, had begun neglecting Cub 4 and that the father was roughing it up too, zoo staff decided in April it would be kinder to kill the youngster.

This week, the zoo announced that the cub, whose remains were deep-frozen, would be thawed out and handed over to an expert taxidermist to be stuffed.

The hide has been separated from the body and will be tanned and the body measured for a mold.

Explaining the process, the zoo said it considers it central to learning that animals are experienced in as natural a condition as possible, including contact with “animal materials” like hides, bones or fully stuffed creatures.

It added, “An emotional experience takes priority, which brings nature closer to the children with all its facets — ‘nice’ or not — and makes them tangible.”

But criticism of the zoo’s actions has focused on the fact that the adult bears involved were hand-raised — suggesting that their cubs could have been raised that way too.

The daily newspaper Berner Zeitung reported in April that the zoo had received a flood of public comment after Cub 4 was killed.

It quoted Sara Wehrli, head of the Wild Animal Department of Swiss Animal Protection, as saying the zoo had acted “irresponsibly” in its care of the bears.

“Bears are loners and need room, and in zoos, there are already too many brown bears,” she said. “Letting the two get pregnant was wrong. You can’t leave wild animals in captivity to ‘nature.’

“Whoever keeps them must take responsibility for them.”

In March, after the controversy over the Copenhagen Zoo’s actions, European Association of Zoos and Aquaria spokesman David Williams-Mitchell told CNN that across the European zoos governed by the body, about 3,000 to 5,000 animals are killed each year under programs to manage zoo populations.

This includes “everything from tadpoles and insects up to charismatic megafauna like giraffes and lions,” he said, adding that it represents only 0.06% of the zoos’ overall animal population.

Exact figures are hard to come by, but a few hundred of those killed by the zoos each year would be large animals, he said.

Williams-Mitchell added that members of the public and animal rights groups tend to object only when zoos kill “cute, storybook animals,” rather than rodents or tadpoles.


  • Kami

    These people know nothing about children, how bad can this kind of illogical and stone cold cruel experience affect them, nature or what it means to be a human. They have no common sense whatsoever. Go back to making watches, leave animals be… :(

  • Kami

    Btw, keeping zoos, in any country, is plain wrong. Its nothing but an agonizing prison for the innocent.

  • Terry Munro

    This is madness. Obviously the male bear should have been separated from the mother and cubs.And the zoo people did not know this??? They are playing around with creatures lives and calling it "nature". The only nature I see is sick human nature.

  • Bill in Georgia

    Couldn't the same lesson regarding cruelty be proven if the zoo keeper was euthanized instead of the bear cub ?

  • eadgarpope

    Now the zoo should have those who made the decision to euthanize the cub carry the cubs body before its mother. They want to show the kids that nature can be cruel but now Its time to show them that it can also be just.

    Humans are no better and definitely less noble than our four legged brothers and sisters.

  • Robin Sutton

    I agree with the comments above. How is this teaching the children how cruel nature can be???? In nature the male bear is not with the female when she gives birth nor with her a she raises her cubs. Bears are solitary animals, the female will fight til the death to protect her cubs… To bad some humans won't do the same for their own children or others children… What has this world become when killing innocent babies whether they be human or animal become??? It is just sickening how heartless humans can be… I have an idea why not sterilize the animals in the zoo so they don't repopulate, more humane than killing them.

  • D. Johnson II

    What is wrong with these zoos! If you can't take responsibility for them, let them go and don't let what you have breed! Your idiots! Let me euthanize you!! You irresponsible barbaric mf's!!!!!!!!!

  • Mira

    WTF !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nature can be cruel, BUT nature does not bring in children to have an audience whe she is curel…DAMN IT…these PEOPLE are SICK IN THEIR MINDS…Nature IS cruel in her own way, privatly , most of the times away from any eye witness…these PEOPLE ARE SADISTIC PSYCHOPATHS… Switzerland this is OUTRAGEOUS….and If i were on of those parents of those children I WOULD SUE THAT DAMN ZOO….SHAME ON YOU…SHAME on all of you over there…SICK in your minds…as sick as one could get…I hope those parents will SUE this zoo…

  • Casandra

    This is human SADISM in display, not mother Nature being cruel…a bunch of sadistic individuals who make lots of MONEY running a zoo where they PLAY GOD with the animals…Shame on YOU Switzerland…this zoo TAINTED your image…FIRE all those LUNATICS and shut it down…Despicable ACT OF PURE cruelty to defenceless animals…You guys over there, you HAVE NOTHING to teach anybody…now we all know how paranoid you all are….I hope the government will take action against this zoo…the sooner the better….

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