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Zoo fears as polar bear eats cubs

  • Story Highlights
  • Four-week-old polar bear separated from mother amid fears she would eat it
  • Nuremberg City Zoo's other polar bear ate its own two offspring earlier this week
  • Mother was showing signs of being upset and confused, zookeepers said
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(CNN) -- German zookeepers in Nuremberg will bottle-feed a four-week-old polar bear and rear it away from its mother after concerns the mother would eat her cub, officials said Thursday.

Zookeepers fear the unnamed polar bear cub could be at risk of being eaten.

The cub, which doesn't yet have a name, was being cared for at Nuremberg City Zoo, where it was resting under heat lamps and is drinking formula.

"It's gaining weight, it's very hungry, it drinks a lot of milk," said Alexandra Foghammar, a spokeswoman for the city. The zoo announced Thursday that the cub is female.

Wednesday, the zoo said keepers decided to take the cub away from its mother, Vera, because the mother was showing signs of being upset and confused, taking her baby in and out of the animals' enclosure.

"We were 100 percent sure that the baby was going to die if we didn't take it away from her," Nuremberg zoo director Dag Encke told Time magazine. "This would have been a death verdict for the cub."

The zoo confirmed earlier this week that its other female polar bear, Vilma, had eaten her two offspring. The zoo said it feared Vera would do the same, so it took her cub away as a precaution.

Since then, the cub is thriving in the care of humans, but Vera seems to miss her cub, Foghammar said. Video Watch how zoo has faced criticism over polar bears. »

"The mother is a little bit nervous," she said. "She walks around and is searching for the baby, but the responsible persons for the zoo say this is normal. It will continue for three or four days. It's a normal situation."

The zookeepers are pondering whether to bring another adult bear, possibly the cub's father, Felix, to the zoo to help Vera overcome her loss, and are seeking another small bear to serve as a companion for the rescued cub, Time reported.

The zoo said a keeper entered Vilma's enclosure Monday and noticed that her two cubs were nowhere to be found.

The zoo said it assumes Vilma ate her young because she believed the cubs were sick, though zookeepers say the cubs were last seen on Sunday and appeared in good health.

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But Foghammar told Time that the separation of the bears was bad for the "principle of wildlife conservation" at the zoo: "Now the cub will not grow up to act in a natural way, just as the mother lacked the experience to bring up a cub."

The plight of the cub follows the case last year of Knut, a cub rejected by its mother at Berlin Zoo who became the focus of a media frenzy after animal rights campaigners called for it to be killed, claiming it had become too dependent on humans. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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