ZOO LEAVES POLAR BEAR CUBS TO STARVE
Monday Jan 7 12:00 AEDT
By ninemsn staff
Three baby polar bears are being allowed to starve to death in a German zoo.
The bears' mother, Vera, has so far shown no interest in feeding or caring for her three-week-old cubs and keepers at the Nuremberg Zoo have controversially decided not to intervene and rear them by hand, The Guardian has reported.
The zoo has been inundated with letters from outraged animal lovers, demanding the keepers feed the cubs, but deputy director Helmut Maegdefrau is determined to let nature take its course.
"We expect to be branded as being cruel to animals. The fact is in nature, if something goes wrong, it goes wrong," he told the newspaper.
"If you don't let the mothers practise, they'll never learn how to bring up their cubs. We're cautiously optimistic.
"Vera does come out of her cave occasionally but the cubs are crying loudly, and she walks back in when they do. If we were to keep checking, we would disturb them and make it more likely that something goes wrong."
A similar case of maternal neglect at another German zoo made a little polar bear cub named Knut an international celebrity last year.
Like Vera's cubs, Knut was ignored by his mother.
However, rather than let him starve, Knut's keepers at Berlin Zoo stepped in to save him — a decision that angered animal rights activists who said he should be left to die.
Knut went on to grace the cover of Vanity Fair and a movie about his life is in the works. His star rose so high, it was once rumoured Suri Cruise would be his voice in the film.
Mr Maegdefrau told The Guardian he wants "no Knutmania" at his zoo.
"Berlin Zoo did a terrific job hand-rearing Knut from day one. But we want to avoid Knutmania at all costs. If people spend hours queuing up to see a polar bear cub, there's something wrong. We've got a baby giraffe too, that's just as cute."