I was just about to finish a post for my Nat Geo blog concerning the genetic management of giraffes in various zoo association member institutions (i.e., zoological parks), when I came across an article in The Dodo referencing the euthanization of a healthy animal at another EAZA zoo.
In the wake of the euthanization of "Marius," I'm very disappointed in my colleagues overseas. This time a zoo put down a brown bear, nonetheless, another European zoo euthanized another animal. In this case they assert that rather than letting the father eat the last of three cubs, the zoo chose to euthanize it to save it from horrific death.
What? First of all, the conventional choice for bears and other carnivores -- with a few exceptions, like lions -- is to place the cubs with their mothers until they can hold their own or be relocated. This zoo made a mistake and now the offspring have paid for it.
I'm particularly unnerved because the zoo states that hand-rearing the cub would create behavior problems. Well, just over a year ago, I raised an orphan Kodiak brown bear cub, which was intended to be sent to the Orsa Bear Park in Sweden---an EAZA facility. The bear, held at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, was supposed to be accompanied by his enclosure-mate, an unrelated female Kodiak brown bear cub. The female, "Shaguyik," was sadly killed in a freak accident near the facility. To my knowledge, hand-rearing cubs, unless done inappropriately, does not lead to aberrant behavior later in life. In the case of orphaned bears, it is important, in my opinion, to socialize them to people and to acclimate to captivity. Although there are certainly instances of neuroses in hand-reared carnivores and bears, in particular, this is not necessarily the norm. But we do know that euthanizing the bear cub gives it no chance at life whatsoever.