Bear dies after zoo's hibernation mistake

Time of article published Dec 14, 2000

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Toledo, Ohio - A sloth bear on loan to the Toledo Zoo died of dehydration because zoo officials, mistakenly believing the bear was pregnant and would enter near-hibernation, denied her food and water for weeks.

"In this tragic case, mistakes were made," said William Dennler, executive director of the Toledo Zoo. "Our checks and balances failed."

The 18-year-old bear, named Medusa, wasn't pregnant, and sloth bears are not among several species that enter a near-hibernation state when pregnant. Sloth bears are native to India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Fewer than 25 000 are thought to be left in the wild, and fewer than 100 are in North American zoos.

A three-page report released on Wednesday said zoo officials didn't know enough about breeding the endangered species and failed to check with other bear experts.

Medusa, on loan from the Detroit Zoo, was isolated on November 17 with a short-term supply of food and water. Zoo employees thought she would give birth by early January.

She was found dead on December 4.

Dennler said no employees have been disciplined.

The report was written by a five-member panel of the Toledo Zoological Association, the board that oversees the non-profit zoo. - Sapa-AP

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