Thursday, July 19, 2012

Farewell, gentle Bärle


Circus bear Bärle did get her fairytale ending. And now she is at peace.

 After 17 years of being confined to a tiny dirty cage and being forced to perform tricks in a traveling Puerto Rican circus, she was rescued ten years ago and given the gift of spending happier days in a beautiful setting in the Detroit Zoo's Arctic Ring of Life area. She enjoyed the company of other bears, was given proper food, and ventured out onto real green green grass. Even more miraculously, she experienced the joys of motherhood with her darling cub Talini, now age 7. She enjoyed the affection of her many fans, zoo docents and caretakers.
Bärle enjoyed her final years in the Detroit Zoo

The former circus star's story came to an end yesterday, July 18, 2012, when Detroit Zoo vets found that Bärle had terminal cancer, and they made the decision to end her suffering. She had been acting poorly for about five days, even refusing to eat her favorite meal of sweet potatoes and chicken.
Bärle in July 2009, roaming around the lush vegetation in the green area of the Arctic Ring of Life,
 which is North America's largest polar bear exhibit

Bärle had been captured in Manitoba as a cub, and grew up in a small cage in the Suarez Brothers Circus. She and a number of other polar bears were rescued in November of 2002, including the famous Willie, now living at the Milwaukee County Zoo while his home in Asheboro NC is being upgraded and expanded. Willie is also an older bear, in his late 20s. With the loss of Bärle, Willie is the last of the rescued circus bears still alive.

When she arrived in Detroit back in 2002, Bärle was small and her muscles were not well developed, due to lack of exercise and poor diet. The Detroit Zookeepers had to teach her to swim at age 17. She was pear shaped from inactivity, so she had to get used to having room to move around. She gained weight quickly, and learned to be a polar bear. On November 22, 2004, Bärle gave birth to Talini, fathered by Triton, who died in 2008. Zoo staffers were hoping that she would have another cub with Lee, but that did not come to pass.
Bärle playing in the wildflowers in August, 2011

Bärle enjoys a summer afternoon in nature

My last vision of Bärle was a happy one, as she napped among the wildflowers on a lovely summer afternoon last August. She was a gentle spirit among bears, and she will be greatly missed.

Sweet Dreams,  Bärle

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