A healthy bear cub has been killed by a Swiss zoo, because keepers say it was being bullied by its dad.
The cub was one of the twin cubs who had been born in mid-January to father Misha and his partner Masha, two brown bears who had been donated to the Dahlholzli zoo in the Swiss capital Bern in 2009 by then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and his wife as a gift.
In the wild, the female bear will typically drive away her male partner in order to protect her cubs after giving birth, the reason being that the males very quickly see cubs as rivals and might attempt to kill them.
Although this was known to the zoo they did not separate the mother and two cubs, and zookeepers came under hefty criticism when the male Misha, weighing in at 360 kg, recently killed one of the cubs in front of the public.
Despite massive protest, the zoo defended its position, saying that they stood by the decision to give the cubs a natural upbringing by raising them together with their parents, and that if they were separated it would lead to "massive behavioural disorders".
They stuck by that policy even after the first cub was killed, leaving the second cub in the cage. After seeing that the father bear was also attacking the second cub, instead of backing down on their policy and separating the two, they decided to simply put the baby bear to sleep.
They said the decision was to spare the cub any more distress at the hands of its father.
But the Swiss Animal Protection group said that the zoo had massively mishandled the situation and added that they condemned what had happened in the strongest possible terms.
A spokesman for the group told CEN: "It is not natural to keep the male bear with the offspring, and there was more than enough space to have kept him in a separate part of the cage."
However, keepers said separating Misha or Masha from the cub would lead to lead to other problems and cause lasting damage to the welfare of all the bears.
Jürg Hadorn, the zoo's deputy director, told the Daily Mail: "After 12 weeks it was clear that Masha was irreparably neglecting her role as mother of cub number four.
"Together with the fact that the male bear Misha had started demonstrating the same aggressive behaviour as he did to cub number three, in order to protect cub number four from more stress and pain, we decided to act. As a result the baby bear was euthanised by a vet."
He added: "Having young animals is a natural part of the life cycle of every animal and we wanted to ensure that Misha and Masha had the chance as well. But the loss of the young animals in a biological sense and also according to basic principles of good animal protection are less serious than the loss of an adult.
"The loss of cub number four has affected all of us here. Because Misha and Masha appeared to be clearly unable to fulfil their role as parents, Misha will be sterilised in the next few weeks."
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