A little late, it was supposed to be published last Tuesday...
I say it right away, I haven't met too many bear keepers in disguise ...And what that has to do with the article of Desmond Morris...? Read yourself...Today only in English, no time for translations...Hope you won't mind...This article refers to last year and the discussion after the Nuremberg events about hand-rearing of bear cubs, and I know that Mami Simba has kept it always in the archive, just for the carneval season although it is a very serious article...
Why we SHOULD have stepped in to stop a polar bear eating her cubsBy DESMOND MORRIS
Last updated at 13:17 12 Januar 2008
You run a zoo and one of your female animals abandons her babies - what do you do?Do you allow nature to take its course and let them die young, or do you hand-rear them and risk creating "mental hybrids" - animals who think they are human, even though they belong to a quite different species.That was the dilemma that faced Nuremberg Zoo when their female polar bear, Vilma, ignored the screams of her two starv ing cubs.The zoo authorities took the tough decision to let nature run its course, with the result that the cubs are now dead - eventually eaten by their mother.Although the zoo's decision was not taken lightly and they believed that they were acting correctly, they have been under savage public attack ever since, looked upon as callous monsters and subjected to an international barrage of abuse.
Indeed, such was the outcry that when a second female polar bear, Vera, failed to care for her cub, the keepers hurriedly announced they would intervene and bottle-feed it.As a result, the whole question of the ethics of keeping animals in zoos a t all has again become a hot topic, with the anti- zoo lobby once more demanding the closure of all zoos.To make up one's mind about this issue, calmly and objectively, it is necessary to examine precisely what is meant by "the dangers of hand-rearing".
Put very simply, if you find an abandoned animal that is only a few days old and it is obviously starving because its natural mother has ignored its cries, your deep-seated parental instinct urges you to protect it and feed it.If you are successful, the results are remarkably fulfi lling as the young creature prospers and grows. It may also develop a powerful attachment to you and, if it is a wild animal, may becom e remarkably tame. The problems begin when the hand-reared animal grows up. At this stage it is all a matter of which kind of species it belongs to.
There are three types. The first is the one that remains tame while it is young, but then, of its own accord, becomes wild when it matures. No difficulty there.The second is the type that remains friendly to its human foster-mum when it becomes adult but is also capable of interacting naturally with other members of its own species. Little problem there.
But the third type - and this is where the difficulties really begin - refuses to have anything to do with its own species when it grows up and considers itself to be a paid-up member of the human species.This third type - the fully "humanised" animal - will remain confused for the rest of its life, and it is this last type of outcome that the Nuremberg Zoo officials were trying to avoid.
But which animals belong to which of these types?
These were "type-one" animals - capable of being hand-reared without being domesticated in any way.
So, before saying that it is dangerous to hand-rear a particular species, zoo officials should first make sure that they do not belong to this category.
The second type of hand-reared animal can respond to its own kind in a natural way, while at the same time remaining tame with its human "mother".
I once visited the conservationist Anna Merz in Kenya, where she had a hand-reared rhinoceros. Although the animal was now huge, she was still able to take it for a walk like a pet dog - a wonderful sight.
The problem she had was that it loved the spot in her house where she had fed it as a baby and it did everything in its power to get back there. She did her best to keep it out of the house when it grew large, but occasionally, when she wasn't looking, it would sneak back inside and on one occasion became completely jammed in her dining room door. It pushed and shoved until it couldn't get forward any more and couldn't get back either. So it just stood there, twitching its ears and gazing at her. She told me that it had taken a gallon of cooking oil poured over its rough skin to dislodge it.But despite these hand-rearing hazards, her beloved female rhino, now at last adult, successfully introduced herself to a splendid, wild male rhino and managed to adjust to her own species.
As I said, the problems arise with the third type - the hand-reared wild animal that becomes completely humanised and wants nothing to do with its own species.I myself suffered heartaches with one such animal - a giant panda named Chi-Chi. After being hand-reared, she had arrived at London Zoo, where I was curator of mammals back in 1958, and she had become a star attraction.
She was the only giant panda in the West and caused a sensation during her days as a lively, playful cub, but then she grew up and starting calling for a mate. At the time, visiting Maoist China was out of the question, but I discovered that there was one other giant panda outside the Orient and, happily, that it was an adult male, called An-An.
Unfortunately, he happened to be housed in Moscow Zoo at a time when the East-West Cold War was at its most frigid. Determined to breed baby pandas, I nevertheless flew to Moscow and started negotiations.
The idea of an arranged marriage for the only two pandas outside China drove the Western Press into a frenzy of delight, but the Russians simply believed that I was a spy and tried (unsuccessfully) to trick me into stealing the plans of a secret factory, so that they could throw me in the infamous Lubianka jail.
I managed to avoid making any mistakes and the following year was able to take Chi-Chi to Moscow to mate her with An-An.
The scene was set, and the two famous black-and-white pandas were brought together. Chi-Chi was on heat and An-An was clearly infatuated by his new partner. They circled one another and then he made his move, gently trying to mount her. To our horror, her reaction was to turn on him and swipe him with a powerful paw, knocking him to the ground. He tried again and again, but she would have none if it. Eventually they were separated and, seeing me, Chi-Chi sauntered over and pressed her body to the bars of her cage.I put my hand through the bars and pressed down on her back. She immediately adopted the "lordosis" position, with a downward arched back, which is the sexual invitation posture of giant pandas.In other words, she was prepared to react sexually to a human being - the species that, long ago, had handreared her as a tiny cub - but was not prepared to respond to a male of her own species. An-An had obviously not been humanised in this way and, despite making a later visit himself to see Chi-Chi in London, never did manage to change her mind.
It is this third type of hand-reared animal that modern zoos are now trying to avoid creating. They do not wish to hand-rear polar bear cubs that might, as adults, refuse - like Chi-Chi - to breed with their own kind.
Today, it is the policy of all major zoos to set up breeding groups of wild animals in enclosures that are as naturalistic as possible, so that, as the years pass, they will never again have to plunder the wild for new specimens.In-breeding can be avoided by exchanging individual zoo-bred animals between one country and another and, in theory, all the zoos of the world should then be able to continue exhibiting exciting animals that fire the imagination of city children and encourage them to care about wildlife.
If there is a surfeit of a particular species, some of them can then be returned to the wild. Indeed, this has already happened in a number of cases.So where does all this leave those starving polar bear cubs at Nuremberg Zoo? Was the zoo right to leave them to their fate in order to avoid creating some new, confused "Chi-Chi-like" animals?
Although I understand their motivation, I think they were wrong, for several reasons.First, did they have strong evidence that polar bears belong to category three - and would never have adjusted to their own species when they became adult? I doubt it.
Second, even if they did belong to category three, why not rear them and allow them to go to other zoos, where they would act as ambassadors for their species, making city children care more about the plight of their increasingly rare, wild cousins.Of course, we don't want zoo animals to become humanised in this way, but if the only alterative is for them to become pieces of meat to be eaten by their uncaring mothers, then surely there is no choice.We have to save them because, like all zoo animals, they are in our care and are our responsibility.
To ignore this responsibility is to create an image of zoo staff as heartless monsters - as has already happened in Nuremberg.It is all very well to say "let nature take its course" but nature did not put the mother polar bear in a zoo enclosure in the first place. As soon as that had happened, her offspring became the shared responsibility of her and her human carers. If she failed to play her part, they should have stepped in for her. Their failure to do so in Nuremberg is just one more nail in the coffin of zoo public relations.
If we were dealing with, say, a dog-breeder who deliberately allowed some of his puppies to starve to death because a bitch was ignoring them, he would find himself in trouble with the law.Why should zoo bear cubs be given less protection than domestic puppies?
The zoos will fight back by saying that, had they hand-reared the cubs, it would have meant creating neurotic, semi-tame bears occupying valuable zoo space for years to come.
Their concern is valid, but they seem oblivious to the fact that, by allowing screaming cubs to starve to death when they could easily have been saved by human intervention, they will make the public view zoos not as loving conservation centres but as vile animal concentration camps.If the zoo authorities then hold up their hands and say, well, what were we to do to avoid creating neurotic, humanised animals, there is one simple answer. They should not attempt to keep in captivity those species that give rise to this sort of problem. They must be more selective.
They can hope to show only a small sample of the huge range of wild species anyway, and there are plenty of exotic animals that are easy to keep in captivity and that breed so freely that the surplus produced can, indeed, be returned to the wild and help the conservation movement.A final thought: if the Nuremberg zoo keeper is so worried about humanising his bear cubs, why not dress him up in a bear costume when he is bottle-feeding the little ones, to avoid confusing them? And who knows, he might even turn out to be the winner of next year's Turner Prize.
The whole article of Desmond Morris with photos of Vera and Flocke you find here...
Desmond Morris bei Wikipedia/dt.
Desmond Morris on Wikipedia/engl.
Photo credits: Knut im Karneval(1)/Bauz, Polar bear in boat and with Erich (2, 7)/Erich Wilts, Tasmanian Devil(3)/unknown source, AnnaMerz with Rhino (4), Chi Chi 1964 (5)/found on Internet, Panda(6)/found on Internet
Unfortunately I didn't find a photo of An An....
The photos of Erich Wilts taken in Spitzbergen have a special, different background...another time more to this...Thanks for sharing the photos!