Nuremberg polar cub to get Berlin bear potion

The polar bear cub that has been topping German news bulletins all week is to receive a health potion that helped an earlier bear celebrity, Knut, through the perils of babyhood, zoo officials said Sunday.

A pack of corn syrup was being couriered from the capital to provincial Nuremberg, where the unnamed female cub is being bottle- fed after being "rescued" from its mother Vera.

Berlin Zoo veterinarian Andre Schuele said the hard-to-find syrup, bought in the grocery section of a prestigious Berlin department store, was to be mixed with canine infant formula to prevent the cub being constipated.

This was important, as a blocked bowel could be fatal to the cub. He said the idea of using it had come from San Francisco Zoo in the United States, which is a leading bear raiser.

Berlin rescued a newborn polar bear, Knut, from its mother in December 2006. The male animal, now weighing a healthy 125 kilograms, was raised on a mix of crushed cat food, infant formula and corn syrup.

In Nuremberg, zoo chief executive Dag Encke said he was not worried about a criminal complaint filed against him for failing to prevent the deaths of two earlier polar cubs.

Bear lovers were outraged when the zoo deliberately left the cubs with their mother Vilma at the risk of parental neglect. Vilma gobbled them up early Monday.

"I think we conducted ourselves professionally," said Encke Sunday. "My conscience is clear."

The complaint by the Hagen Whale and Dolphin Defence Society will be studied by prosecutors, who have the final say on whether it should lead to an indictment.

Dietrich Doerner, a Nuremberg university psychologist, said mass German concern about the cub reflected a built-in protective instinct that humans have towards children.

"Wee animals fit into people's 'baby' mental pattern," said professor Doerner in an interview.

"Wanting to help babies is a part of every human's basic biological equipment. The human sees the rounded shape, the helpless face, the clumsy movements and is unconsciously impelled to do something protective."

In addition, button eyes, a turned up nose and fur reminded many Germans of their childhood teddy bears.

"On top of that, people believe assisting a cub has a promise of success, whereas they don't believe they can offer any practical help to poor people or starving children, for example in Africa," he said.

"By showing sympathy for the cub, they feel they have at least indirectly done something to save it, and fulfilled a duty to society. But this is not a conscious thing.

"It's a kind of substitute satisfaction in the face of the amorphous feeling that they cannot change anything in the worldwide suffering of human beings," Doerner said. ( Dpa )

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