EL zoo bears given clear bill of health after outcry

FORLORN: The photo of one of the East London zoo’s bears which outraged social media users. Picture: MARK ANDREWS/FILE
FORLORN: The photo of one of the East London zoo’s bears which outraged social media users. Picture: MARK ANDREWS/FILE
Gina and Jenny, the bears at the East London Zoo, have been declared healthy by a vet.

The bears’ pictures caused a massive uproar from animal lovers when they were circulated on social media platforms resulting in a protest march and petition calling for the deteriorating zoo to be closed and all its animals relocated.

The petition had 24109 signatures by yesterday.

The vet’s report, which the Daily Dispatch has seen, deemed the bears relatively healthy for their old age.

The report stated that:

lFaecal matter collected by zoo staff was examined with no apparent abnormalities or parasites observed;

  • The movement of the bears was normal with no lameness;
  • Jenny, the younger of the bears, had put on some weight;
  • Cataracts were observed in the eyes of both bears;
  • Moulting was almost complete; and
  • Although proper examination of the teeth was impossible as the bears could not be immobilised, they were eating meat, fruit and vegetables with ease.

The report recommended they not be immobilised due to their age, ruling out transportation.

BCM marine and zoological services acting senior manager Siani Tilney said they were happy with the vet’s report.

“They live to 25 years in the wild and longer in captivity. Our Gina is estimated to be around 40 and Jenny is about nine years younger.

“The bears have had no need for medical attention for over four years now which is a good indicator of their welfare.

“The same vet issued a report in 2014 stating that they were eating well and had no discomfort or pain.

“The zoo is aware of her age and when she shows signs of suffering and these signs are confirmed by a vet and the ethics committee will manage the decision for euthanasia,” she said.

Tilney said vet assessments were done on a number of the zoo’s other animals and this would continue until the zoo had a “comprehensive collection of vet assessments”.

Tilney has high hopes for a turnaround strategy which she believes will see the zoo modernised. The plan is due to be tabled at council in a “few weeks”.

“It is hoped that we can produce a fully functional zoo that has a good reputation on how we house and display animals under our care.” — tylerr@dispatch.co.za