Knut should be castrated, say animal activists

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

A A A

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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape