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Scandalous and Cruel: Incest at Berlin Zoo

Written by PETA | March 5, 2010

Many folks can’t help shaking their hips to Kissin’ Cousins, but when it comes to breeding imprisoned polar bears who share the same grandfather, you can be sure that our friends at PETA Germany will only be shaking their protest signs.

Here’s the situation: Do you remember Knut? If not, you’re not alone. A few years ago, there were several months when it seemed like everybody and his, er, cousin was talking about the Berlin Zoo’s adorable baby polar bear. PETA Europe, in particular, protested the zoo’s plan to hand-rear him. The baby was paraded for throngs of media and zoo visitors, but once he grew up, audiences’ excitement and interest in the bear began to wane.

Well, now Knut is sharing his quarters with another polar bear named Giovanna, who is his cousin, and PETA Germany is calling for Knut to be castrated. To breed any polar bear in captivity perpetuates a life full of misery for animals who are roving predators with an instinct to roam and hunt. And in this situation, according to Frank Albrecht, an expert in captive animal welfare, if Knut and Giovanna were to have any offspring, it could threaten the genetic diversity of Germany’s polar bear population, and the new bears could be susceptible to a condition known as “incest depression.” (As if captive animals aren’t depressed and frustrated enough already …)

Giovanna was moved to the problematic Berlin Zoo last year when construction work began on her own den in Munich. (Of course, the 64,000-Euro question is whether Giovanna will stay with Knut or be shuffled back to Munich.) There’s no denying that Knut and Giovanna seem to enjoy each other’s company, but allowing the two cousins to mate with each other (or with any other bears for that matter) would be irresponsible and cruel. Albrecht notes, “Knut fans need to know that only Knut’s castration would allow a long life together with Giovanna.”

So, tell us what you think:


Should Knut be castrated?polling


Written by Karin Bennett

Commenting is closed.
  • Kurt K says:

    How could evil zoo keepers ever find the humanity to take care of the fleeing Jews from Poland. Anbody who keeps animals behind bars is evil.

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    I am not a fan of any zoo not just because of animals being imprisoned in them for the enjoyment of humans but because of what happens to zoo animals during wars and national disasters. I just finished a book entitled “The Zookeeper’s Wife” the true story of what happened to the animals and the human caretakers of the Warsaw Zoo in Poland after the invasion and occupation of Germany in WWII. During the terror and confusion of the first attack the polar bear exhibit was bombed. The terrified bears escaped the enclosure and were chased down and shot by German soldiers in spite of the pleading by the keepers. Later the head of the Berlin Zoo marched in and announced he was taking all of the animals left alive to the Berlin Zoo for safety reasons. The rare valuable animals were forcibly loaded into trucks frightened and confused and taken away. The zoo was left with “common” animals which were killed when a commanding German officer and a gang of his friends came into the zoo with rifles and had a shooting party. The twelvth elephant ever born in captivity was born in the Warsaw Zoo in the 1930’s. The war began shortly after she was born her parents who were with her in the zoo were killed her father in a bombing raid her mother was shot and she was taken to the Berlin Zoo. With the animals gone the zoo director his family and the remaining keepers decided the best way to fight the Nazi’s was to provide a hiding place for the Jews of Warsaw. Saying they were restocking the zoo they gave their guests the names of animals minks sables pheasants lemurs etc.. Since the director of the zoo was imprisioned by the Nazi’s responibility for the zoo and everyone in it including her two young children fell to his wife. Today the Warsaw Zoo is back in operation and thriving and there are monuments to this time there. One of the guests was a fameous sculptor she scultped statues of the animals at the zoo before the war. Many of her works were preserved and are on display at the zoo along with the history of what happend there during WWII.

  • Marilyn says:

    I think he should not be castrated but rehabilited in the wild because they are just a few polar bears in the wild. wild life will be better for him. Why not doing a survey to see how much it will cost and by ie clicking on a picture of him it could bring money ask for donation or bring him a new girl friend ? with media that should be possible indeed. Thank you.

  • Henry says:

    While I do understand the plight and strain of animals in captivity.. The habitat of the bears are disappearing and we do need to keep the bears alive and in reasonable conditions. Talking about “incest” in the animal world beyond the genetic implications is the typical playing with words more often spewed out by conservatives. Castrating an endangered species seems like a counter productive approach to me. We should probably go about castrating two legged ones as we are the biggest threat to flora and fauna diversity on this planet.

  • Terri Wasylycia says:

    Castrate??? Why not rehabilitate and release back into the wild. That is the perfect solution to this dilemma. There’s so few Polar Bears left in the wild now numbers are waning with the melting of polar ice caps seal numbers declining. Wild life is the best life for these Bears.

  • Rad_Rosa89 says:

    Can’t they just put them back in the wild?

  • kellie ann says:

    Have him fixed and let them enjoy each others company they appearently enjoy being together and he won’t know what happened to him and they can go on having each others company.

  • Erin says:

    I think that zoos are very good oportunities for people to see how beautiful and inspiring nonhuman animals really are. HOWEVER I think that zoos should be more like reserves and give people a chance to see how magnificent they can be in a normal environment. It ruins the point of a zoo to mistreat these animals why is it nessesary to keep animals in such unfair conditions? The problem is in the fact that people can’t just build a zoo because they have a passion for animals. It always has to be about money and selfish humans the two banes of the world.

  • Andre Inglis says:

    It seems that so many times Zoo’s seem to create all sorts of issues and then they look for a bail out. Now it’s a difficult decision for PETA because anything that is done is going to be improper. The fact is that this never would have started if the Zoo didn’t decide to bring the bear in.

  • Amanda says:

    I think he should NOT be castrated. he doesn’t deserve that if you don’t want them to be bred because of incest then separate them. They should not be held in captivity anyway. They belong in the wild.

  • Karina says:

    I agree with Suanna. If Giovanna is to stay in Berlin Knut must be castrated. I am happy if the enjoy each others company but if they are not supposed to be together for fear in incest why Giovanna was put there in the firs place? Why Knut is to pay the price of castration?

  • Suanna says:

    Why don’t they simply transport the bears where they belong!? We do not need animals to entertain us. Because of us they had to change their life condicions not because they wanted so.