PASSAU, Germany, Jan. 9, 2008 -- Two days after Nuremberg zoo officials informed the public that two cubs born five weeks ago were dead and that their mother probably had eaten them, the same officials delivered some good news — a third cub will be hand-reared by zoo keepers.
Vilma and Vera, a pair of female polar bears, gave birth to cubs about the same time. Vilma's cubs didn't survive and were probably devoured by their mother, Vilma. One cub from Vera was still alive.
Zoo director Dag Encke told a news conference in Nuremberg today, "We've decided to take the remaining cub away from its mother, Vera, and hand-rear it as best as we can. This situation is not what we had wanted to see, but we felt we had no other choice after the mother bear had appeared increasingly nervous and upset yesterday."
The zoo's management, which initially had said it was prepared to let the polar bear cubs born 5 weeks ago die rather than interfere with their upbringing, has come under a barrage of criticism after two of the cubs died earlier this week.
The death of the two cubs made it on the front page of Germany's biggest-selling tabloid Bild Zeitung with a headline asking, "Why weren't they saved like Knut?" referring to the famous polar bear Knut, which was brought up successfully by Berlin zoo keepers during the last year after his mother abandoned him at birth.
Other media were quick to follow suit and there was a public outcry over the zoo management's initial decision not to interfere with Mother Nature.
That decision has now been reversed.
Zoo officials explained today they had changed their mind after Vera appeared increasingly nervous and irritated Tuesday. She was seen walking around her compound with the live cub in her mouth, dropping it on the floor several times causing great concern for its well-being.
Encke told ABCNEWS.com, "It makes one want to cry to see that the mother has so far been bringing up the cub perfectly and now she has given up. She's very upset. Now that we took her cub away from her, she's pacing back and forth in her compound, looking for her cub. But the main thing is for the little one to be well."
Encke and his staff told media at a news conference in Nuremberg today that the polar bear cub had been checked by a veterinarian, given a clean bill of health and appears to be well-fed.
"We're happy to say that the little one is in good shape. It has spent the first night in the care of a keeper, it slept well and only cried when it was hungry. It is being fed milk every four hours now and has accepted the bottle right away."
The tiny cub weighs about 60.71 ounces and does not have a name yet, but that's the least to worry about.
The zoo will invite Nurembergers to send in name suggestions as soon as it can determine the cub's gender. At the moment, zoo keepers are 99 percent certain it is a girl and they will be taking suggestions soon on firstname.lastname@example.org