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Edinburgh Zoo Polor Bear Breeding

polar bears at Antwerp Zoo
Pictured above : Edinburgh Zoo sent their star attraction Minty the Polar Bear to die in this concrete prison in Amsterdam.

Animal Concern has learned of plans by Edinburgh Zoo to restart their polar bear breeding programme. Below is our letter to Edinburgh City Council asking them to intervene and save the bears from this cruel and pointless commercial exploitation? Why not support this campaign by asking Edinburgh Council to act on our request?

Councillor P. Attridge,
Convenor of Licensing Board
Edinburgh City Council
City Chambers, High Street

Dear Councillor Attridge,

I write concerning plans by Edinburgh Zoo to recommence breeding polar bears at the zoo. I would be grateful if you would raise this communication with your colleagues in licensing.

It is well known that polar bears do not adapt to life in captivity. In the past rogue polar bears which entered townships to scavenge through bins would be darted and returned to the wild. If they found their way back to the towns they would then be darted and gifted or sold to zoos. Zoos literally became dumping grounds and prisons for problem bears which would normally travel across vast areas of tundra and ice.

These bears were sent to zoos as they had lost their natural fear of humans and were dangerous and could not be returned to the wild. By the same principal bears bred in zoos are totally unsuitable for return to the wild and are of no use at all in any bear conservation programmes.

Almost every zoo had a couple of polar bears which paced up and down exhibiting typical stereotypic behaviour such as shaking their heads and shifting their weight from one foot to the other. The one thing they did do well (probably through sheer boredom) was breed and produce lovely cute fluffy cubs just in time to pull in the punters at the Easter weekend start of the zoo visitor season.

Edinburgh Zoo was one of the most exploitative zoos in the world as far as this was concerned. Year after year they paraded the cubs for the public and signed them up for lucrative advertising contracts and, as soon as they got a bit bigger and lost their cute appeal, they got rid of them to whoever was willing to take them. They even sent surplus, unwanted cubs to controversial Japanese bear parks despite international criticism of conditions at those parks.

The most famous cub produced at Edinburgh was Minty. Born in 1989 Minty was exploited as the mascot of Fox’s Glacier Mints. In 1990 after the publicity died down Minty was quietly shipped off to Antwerp Zoo where he shared a dilapidated Victorian concrete enclosure with four other demented polar bears. By the time I visited Antwerp Zoo in 1993 Minty was showing all the signs of stereotypic behaviour. After we challenged him Frederic Daman, Director of Antwerp Zoo, admitted that Minty was “;….. showing serious signs of head swinging and stereotypical behaviour. The behaviour results from a form of stress ….”.

Minty died in Antwerp Zoo on 17/6/1994. All 18 cubs bred at and exported from Edinburgh Zoo are dead.

Almost all zoos now admit polar bears cannot be kept properly in captivity.

Animal Concern asks Edinburgh City Council to instruct Edinburgh Zoo not to bring in a second polar bear and start breeding these animals again. If the Zoo goes ahead such an act would prove that the management of Edinburgh Zoo are not fit people to hold a Zoo License and we would ask that Edinburgh City Council rescind or refuse to renew their Zoo License.

We look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours sincerely,

John F. Robins,
Campaigns Consultant to Animal Concern