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★ Stories Of Animal Kingdom Story :
In the 1970s, I worked as the carnivore keeper for a large UK zoo where one of the earliest successful breedings of a polar bear in captivity took place.
The mother and her male cub were left undisturbed for three months following the cub’s arrival.
However, by the time the pair was finally released into the outside enclosure, their swimming pool had been drained of water. The pool had been filled with a thick protective layer of straw as a crowd of VIPs and reporters gathered to witness the cub’s first public appearance.
As soon as the pair emerged, the fluffy cub began exploring his surroundings and waddled up a ramp that led to a diving platform that projected five metres out over the pool.
Suddenly, the layerof straw seemed inadequate.
Everyone held their breath as the cub peered down at the long drop below.
In my mind’s eye I saw a slow tumbling fall, ending with a sickening crunch as the cub’s fragile young bones smashed into the concrete.
He leaned even further forwards and lost his balance, somehow managing to dangle helplessly by his forepaws from the edge of the platform.
Cameras clattered as the drama was captured for the morning newspapers and, realising his predicament, the cub let out an anguished howl.
His mother had been exploring the far side of the enclosure, completely oblivious to her newborn’s predicament.
At the sound of his distress, she raced across, jumped down into the pool, raised herself on her hind legs directly beneath him and stretched out her front paws.
The cub released his hold on the ledge and dropped onto his mother’s waiting forelegs.
She lowered him gently onto the layer of straw and then cuffed him around the ear before returning to her exploration of the enclosure.
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