Whipsnade Zoo condemned online after two escaped bears were shot dead

Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella emerge from hibernation at Whipsnade Zoo
Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella emerge from hibernation at Whipsnade Zoo

A zoo in Bedfordshire has faced strong criticism after it was forced to kill two brown bears which had escaped from their enclosure on Friday.

The animals managed to get out of their cage in ZSL Whipsnade Zoo after strong winds caused a tree to fall to the ground, creating a ‘bridge’ between their enclosure and a neighbouring area housing wild boars. The bears then attacked a male boar.

In a statement published on the zoo’s website, Malcom Fitzpatrick, ZSL’s chief curator, said: “One of our zookeepers spotted the breach, and immediately implemented our emergency procedures and protocols. As brown bears are strong and dangerous predators, our first priority is safety – we must quickly make decisions informed by our experience and expertise to protect our people, guests and our other animals.

“Our experienced zookeepers, who were on the scene within minutes, promptly assessed the situation and agreed the only option was to euthanise the bears. No one wants to be the one to make that call, but when there’s an immediate threat to human life, the decision is made for you.”

Fitzpatrick went on to confirm that a third bear remained in the enclosure and was secured, enabling zookeepers to later remove the fallen tree and examine the injured boar.

He said that he was “devastated” by what happened, but that he was “confident” the zoo’s actions “prevented any further loss of life”.

However, the decision was met with anger online, with many questioning why a tranquiliser dart couldn’t be used to subdue the two bears:

Yet in his statement, Fitzpatrick addressed this question and said “it simply wouldn’t have worked”.

“Despite how it often looks on TV, a tranquiliser can take at least 20 minutes to work during which time the animals can become unpredictable and aggressive as adrenaline is coursing through them.

“That’s a risk we couldn’t take. We had to intervene immediately to ensure the bears didn’t get out of the boar enclosure, which has a low fence,” he said.

Others meanwhile, suggested that the bears shouldn’t be in a zoo in the first place:

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo have confirmed that they will conduct a full investigation into the incident.

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