Knut should be castrated, say animal activists

Peta calls for polar bear to undergo operation 'to prevent risk of inbreeding'


Knut may be the first polar bear to have graced the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, but such fame isn't enough to stop animal rights activists from demanding castration for Berlin's ursine celebrity.

Such a fate seems like the unkindest cut of all for a polar bear who has not only just found a mate after years in solitary confinement; but who was also abandoned by his mother at birth and has been separated from his beloved keeper.

Knut's lonely circumstances only ended in September after he was introduced to Giovanna, a lively female brought to join him from Munich. Since then visitors to Berlin Zoo have been treated to a daily spectacle of the two animals playing together and looking like they are loving every minute of it.

However, the German branch of the animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, insisted yesterday that as the two bears shared the same grandfather, their future offspring and the future of captive polar bears in general were at serious risk through the possibility of their inbreeding.

"Knut fans should be aware that only Knut's castration would allow the long-term cohabitation of Giovanna and Knut" insisted Frank Albrecht, PETA's zoo expert with more than a hint of schadenfreude. "All other hopes and desires would bring the polar bear population in captivity to its pre-programmed demise even more rapidly", he added.

PETA campaigns to prevent zoos from keeping polar bears and has consistently argued that there are "massive problems" in keeping the animals in captivity. These apparently, include the risk of ursine idiocy as a result of sex in the same family. "Inbreeding reduces genetic diversity and there is a danger of inbreeding depression in future offspring," Mr Albrecht insisted.

The suggestion caused howls of protest in Germany's popular press yesterday. Berlin Zoo refused to comment on PETA's claim. Heiner Klös, its bear expert, pointed out that Giovanna was only on loan to Berlin and that she was scheduled to return to Munich Zoo in the summer anyway, when renovation work on her enclosure would be finished.

Berlin's Knut fan club has nevertheless been campaigning vigorously for Giovanna to stay on in Berlin as the two bears now appear to have adapted well to each other despite a difficult beginning when Knut was hit on the nose by his female guest. However, there have been no reports so far that the two animals have attempted to mate.

Since his birth in 2006 to a maltreated circus bear who subsequently abandoned him, Knut has earned well in excess of €10m for Berlin Zoo. His enclosure is permanently surrounded during opening hours and millions of Knut cuddly toys based on what he looked like as a cub have been sold to an adoring public. His popularity led to him being formally adopted by Germany's Environment Minister and to his appearance on Vanity Fair's cover.

But Knut has since suffered the death of Thomas Dörflein in 2008, the keeper who raised him from birth with Elvis lullabies strummed on his guitar, and charges by animal psychologists that he is a psychopath incapable of relationships with other bears because he is surrounded by humans.

Last year, the polar bear was in danger of becoming a victim of the credit crunch after the city said it could no longer afford to keep him. But Giovanna's arrival in Knut's enclosure last year appears to have reversed the bear's tragic fortunes and dramatically increased takings at Berlin Zoo.

If the advice of modern biologists is adhered to then Knut will also escape castration. "It does not make sense," said Dr Katarina Jewgenow, head of reproductive biology at the Leipzig Institute for Biological Research, "Contraception is enough. Giovanna could easily be given the pill" she added.

Suggested Topics
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Project Manager - Software and Infrastructure - Government Experience

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Central Lon...

Maths teachers needed in Cromer

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Head of Business Studies

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Head of Business Studies needed for a ...

Teaching Assistant in secondary school Manchester

£11280 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Teaching a...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits