After zoo officials saw signs of polar bear mother not caring for her young, they decided to let nature take it course to avoid Knut 2 mania. Knut was the first polar bear in 30 years to be born in the Berlin Zoo. Rejected by it's mother, it spent 44 days in incubation and was completely reared by zoo staff.

Today a zoo in southern Germany came under fire for refusing to save the lives of two polar bear cubs who were apparently eaten by their mother, in order to avoid a sequel of “Knut mania”. The director of the zoo so eloquently said, “We wanted to avoid a repeat of the stupid Knut mania and not rear the animal by hand,” Helmut Mägdefrau, the deputy director of the zoo, said.

Nuremberg zoo, in Bavaria, southern Germany, refused demands to rear the vulnerable cubs by hand as Berlin zoo famously did a year ago.

Knut, Berlin’s polar bear cub, was whisked to safety from its mother’s enclosure in a fishing net in December 2006, subsequently becoming internationally famous.

However, Nuremberg zoo chiefs said nature should take its course in the case of the cubs that polar bear Vilma gave birth to five weeks ago.

Despite evidence that Vilma was failing to feed her young, keepers decided to leave them to their own devices. On Monday, they approached the polar bear enclosure after being alerted by the disturbed behaviour of another bear, Vera. They discovered that the cubs could not be found.

“We could not find the remains of the little ones, so we cannot determine the cause of death,” Mr Mägdefrau said, adding: “We’re very sad”.

Despite his assurance that they had died, keepers had been unable to enter Vilma’s cave by yesterday evening to see for themselves.

Mr Mägdefrau said it was not clear whether Vilma had killed her young because they were sick - a not untypical reaction of polar bears in the wild - or had let them die for the same reason and then consumed them.

However, politicians and animal rights activists were quick to condemn the zoo, accusing it of neglect.

“You cannot just dump them in an artificial environment and then treat them as if they’re living in the wild,” Berthold Merkel, the president of Bavaria’s Animal Protection Association, said.

The affair reignited the row of a year ago, when an animal rights activist provoked an international outcry by arguing that Knut should have been allowed to die after being rejected by his mother rather than being unnaturally reared by humans.

However, supporters of the efforts to save Knut said it was a zoo’s duty to conserve animals, and that it was nonsense to treat them as if they were in the wild.

Attention is now focused on polar bear Vera, who also recently gave birth. Reacting to the public outcry, the zoo yesterday announced it would be rearing her [one remaining] cub by hand.

[ source: Guardian.co.uk]

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