Please don’t feed polar bears your coat and purse

Does it need to really be said? Please don’t feed polar bears at the zoo your coat and purse then run away without telling anyone.

It’s led to tragic consequences for Anton, the polar bear at a German zoo.

Zoo staff say the animal died after eating a coat and purse that fell into its enclosure. Anton was 25. Polar bears in captivity have been mown to live to 40 years old.

Officials at the zoo first noticed something was wrong after Anton began to behave lethargically. He also was vomiting up bits of cloth. He died of severe intestinal injury and inflammation.

In the past, when human items fell into his enclosure, Anton would just rip them apart. But his keepers,Andreas Wössner and Jürgen Diesenhofer, said in an interview with the English local newspaper The Local in Germany,  said the coat and purse must have been unusually tempting.

There must have been something very tasty in there, something Anton simply couldn’t resist.”

While it’s not uncommon for careless visitors to drop items into the enclosure, the matter was made worse by staff not noticing it and the coatless, purse less visitor not informing the zoo about the loss. Veterinarian Tobias Knauf Witzens said the death was preventable.

If we had known that something was in the pen, we might have been able to save Anton.”

Consuming items dropped in from visitors have killed other zoo animals in the past. An elephant seal named Charly died after swallowing a teddy bear and a hippopotamus was killed after swallowing a tennis ball that caused an intestinal obstruction.

The zoo said in the last 25 years, some 200 children’s shoes have been found in the polar bear enclosure.

Photo credit: Wilhema Zoo, handout, QMI Agency

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