Tuesday, 15 Jun 2021

Brown bears are shot and killed after escaping from their enclosure

Brown bears called Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are shot dead after escaping from their enclosure at Whipsnade Zoo and mauling a wild boar

  • Bears called Snow White and Sleeping Beauty were euthanised by zookeepers
  • Used fallen tree to clamber into another enclosure, where they attacked a boar 
  • Bedfordshire zoo’s chief curator said it had been ‘an incredibly upsetting day’ 

Two brown bears were shot and killed after escaping from an enclosure at Whipsnade Zoo yesterday.

The female bears, named Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, were euthanised by zookeepers after using a fallen tree to clamber into another enclosure, where they attacked a male boar.

The Bedfordshire zoo’s chief curator, Malcolm Fitzpatrick, said it had been ‘an incredibly upsetting and difficult day’, but that the zookeepers’ decision was driven by ‘safety’ and a need to ‘protect our people, guests and our other animals.’

The pair were not tranquilised because it would have taken 20 minutes for the drug to fully sedate the creatures, the zoo said.

Two brown bears (pictured) were shot and killed after escaping from an enclosure at Whipsnade Zoo yesterday

During that time, Mr Fitzpatrick said, ‘the animals can become unpredictable and aggressive as adrenaline is coursing through them’.

The zookeepers ‘agreed the only option was to euthanise the bears’, he said, adding: ‘When there’s an immediate threat to human life, the decision is made for you.’

As well as attacking other animals, there was an imminent danger of the two bears escaping over the low fence of the boar enclosure they had reached, the zoo said.

It is not know whether the zoo was open to the public at the time.

A third brown bear called Cinderella, who remained in her enclosure, was led to her indoor dens and secured, while the fallen tree was removed.

The female bears, named Snow White and Sleeping Beauty (pictured playing together), were euthanised by zookeepers after using a fallen tree to clamber into another enclosure, where they attacked a male boar

The zoo has come under fire from animal rights activists on social media for shooting the bears, but Mr Fitzpatrick deemed it necessary in the circumstances.

‘I expect some of you may read this and wonder why we didn’t use a tranquiliser to sedate the bears, and the short answer is that it simply wouldn’t have worked,’ he added, insisting their actions ‘prevented any further loss of life’.

The boar suffered injuries, but ultimately survived and was attended to by vets after the situation was declared safe.

Strong winds yesterday morning had originally felled the tree, forming a ‘bridge’ between the two enclosures.

The Bedfordshire zoo’s (file image) chief curator, Malcolm Fitzpatrick, said it had been ‘an incredibly upsetting and difficult day’, but that the zookeepers’ decision was driven by ‘safety’ and a need to ‘protect our people, guests and our other animals’

Mr Fitzpatrick has now confirmed there will be a full investigation into the incident. He said: ‘This situation is something we train to deal with through regular, rigorous drills – but one that we always hope we’ll never have to face.

‘I’m devastated by the outcome of this morning’s incident, but I’m confident that our actions prevented any further loss of life.’

It is rare for brown bears to attack humans on sight, with the species tending to avoid human contact. There are less than 40 attacks worldwide annually, with the majority in Europe occurring in Romania.

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