Rare Bear Starved in Zoo Mistake

ByABC News
December 14, 2000, 9:10 AM

T O L E D O, Ohio, Dec. 14 -- A sloth bear on loan to the Toledo Zoo diedof dehydration because zoo officials, who thought she was pregnant,mistakenly denied her food and water for weeks.

In this tragic case, mistakes were made, said WilliamDennler, executive director of the Toledo Zoo. Our checks andbalances failed,

A three-page investigative report released Wednesday said zooofficials didnt know enough about breeding the endangered species.

Bear Not Hibernating

Zoo employees left the 18-year-old bear, named Medusa, isolatedin a den Nov. 17, with a short-term supply of food and water. Theemployees thought she was pregnant and would enter into anear-hibernation state to give birth by early January.

Medusa was found dead Dec. 4 and wasnt pregnant, the reportsaid.

The report said Tim French, curator of large mammals at theToledo Zoo, mistakenly believed the sloth bear was among severalbear species that went into a near-hibernation state when pregnant,and didnt need extra food and water.

A pregnant sloth bear would have needed weekly offerings of foodand water in order to survive, the report said. Isolating pregnantbears is a common tactic for breeding because pregnant bears arehypersensitive to perceived threats.

The report was written by a five-member panel of the ToledoZoological Association, the board that oversees the nonprofit zoo.It was written after a one-day inquiry Monday of zoo employees.

Dennler said no zoo employees have been disciplined.

Bear Was on Loan

The Detroit Zoo loaned Medusa to the Toledo Zoo last year so shecould breed with its one male sloth bear, Hans.

The zoo isolated Medusa last year and replenished her food andwater weekly. She failed to get pregnant, the report said.

French blamed the unsuccessful breeding, in part, on humancontact. So he decided next time to drop the weekly visualcheck-ins and weekly food and water replenishments, the reportsaid.