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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 00:33 GMT
Zoo to hand-rear polar bear cub
Polar bear Vera and cub, 8 January 2008
Vera was filmed carrying her cub in her enclosure

A German zoo has agreed to hand-rear a polar bear cub because of fears that its mother might harm it.

The decision came after the mother bear, Vera, was filmed carrying her cub in her jaws around her enclosure at Nuremberg Zoo.

It also came amid fears that another polar bear at the zoo, Vilma, has eaten her two new-born cubs.

Zookeepers had initially decided not to disturb Vera and Vilma's cubs, even if the mothers rejected them.

But they announced on Tuesday that they would begin bottle-feeding Vera's cub.

"The safety of the young animal is the first priority," said deputy zoo director Helmut Maegdefrau.

The zoo has said it wants to avoid any repetition of "Knut mania", a popular craze triggered by a hand-reared bear cub at Berlin Zoo last year.

Blog

Knut was rejected by his mother, but Berlin Zoo decided to hand-rear him.

Since then Knut has become a worldwide celebrity, with a blog and TV show dedicated to him.

But Nuremberg Zoo has faced criticism for failing to intervene to help Vilma's cubs.

The case has triggered fresh debate about whether cubs rejected by their mothers should be saved or whether nature should be allowed to run its course.

Zoo director Dag Encke said that Vilma's cubs - believed to be a pair - may have been ill and that in such cases polar bears often eat their young.

SEE ALSO
What are zoos for?
08 Jan 08 |  Magazine
In pictures: Knut's story
09 Jul 07 |  In Pictures

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