Tuesday 05 April 2016 | 3

Rasputin’s walk

Rasputin paces along the fence. He always starts the same way, rolling his head around, then walking the path to the enclosure walls. Rolling his head again, he turns and goes in the other direction, again, and again, until he is exhausted.

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This is stereotypical behaviour. This compulsive ritual, very common in zoos, is exhibited by an animal unable to satisfy its normal behavioural needs in an unnatural environment. With summer temperatures reaching 40°C, Antibes on the Côte d'Azur in South Eastern France is not the ideal place for homing Polar Bears.

Of course, Marineland has spent 3.5 million euros on the layout of their enclosure: sea and fresh water pools and prairie plants similar to those found in the Arctic plains, fountains, rockeries, shady shelters and to top it all off, two refrigerated caves with a bed of ice, wow!

But sadly, Rasputin doesn't even see the prairie plants. He doesn't want to lie down all day in a fridge or shimmy about in a poky pool, where humans push their faces up against the glass. What polar bears want more than anything, are the immense white ice plains, seals, and the ocean, where they can walk and swim far removed from that smell of fast food and the constant noise, far away from the metal walls and that stuffy enclosure. Their huge bodies with claws, fangs and paws to dig the snow were made to swim under the ice and roam the prairie.

Born in Moscow Zoo, Rasputin joined little Flocke in Nuremberg in 2008, then the pair were transferred to Antibes Marineland in April 2010.

Why did they bring them? Why invest so much money in this new attraction?

Because of Knut, without doubt, and "Knutmania". When the little polar bear was born in Berlin Zoo in 2007, he attracted lots of attention. Knut was everywhere, on TV, in books, in blogs, in songs. They even made 'Knut' toys, ringtones and sweets! The zoo loved the hype: doubling the value of its share actions in one week.

The same year, Flocke (Flake in German) was born in Nuremberg zoo. Quickly removed from Vera, his mother, who threw him against the rocks, it was attempted to create a "Madame Knut". His name became a registered trademark. His image was posted everywhere, but without success. An ecological association took the zoo to court claiming that this exploitation of Flocke interfered with her well-being. In any case, as the polar bears grow, the public lose interest. Flocke and Rasputin were sent to Antibes. Little Hope was born in 2011, but there wasn't really any 'Hopemania' in France.

Marineland states that " the reproduction and preservation of polar bears is an essential issue for the park. They are ambassadors for a species greatly endangered by global warming and its impact on the ecosystem". As it happens, of the 330 or so polar bears living in 120 zoos across the world, none of these will ever be released, nor will any of their children, so there will be no effect on the preservation of the species. The only solution to save polar bears is to stop hunting and to protect their territories, rather than looking for petrol. It is better to give up fossil fuels rather than building refrigerated caves which generate global warming gases. Whatever we do, polar bears will never be happy in a zoo. Their life is a metaphor of Rasputin's walk: desperate and hopeless.

One Voice is currently lodging a complaint to local authorities to allow Rasputin to be urgently removed for his own well-being.

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In the subject

Let's rally against the shooting of red foxes at night in Moselle
Emergency for Scarlet, the youngest orca of the clan J is dying from starvation!

Comments 3

I accept that publication of my comments is subject to the code of conduct.

Sophie louveton | Wednesday 09 August 2017

L'esclavage des animaux doit être aboli et le respect des besoins de chaque animal établi. Seule la liberté est la réponse aux ours polaires.

paquy | Friday 07 July 2017

je suis vraiment très triste de voir la cruauté et l indifférence du genre humain,on ne peut pas être une belle âme quand on agit de cette façon.

francesca Schembri | Tuesday 25 October 2016

C'est tout "simplement" intolérable et insoutenable!
C'est la même chose près de chez moi dans le zoo d'Amnéville!
Je soutiens la démarche du dépôt d'une plainte.