Bern makes more room to breed bears 

Urs or Berna gets a better view in the Bern Bear Park in April 2010 Keystone

The Swiss capital’s iconic Bernese bears will soon have more room for romance and – if all goes well – cubs.

This content was published on October 17, 2019 - 15:54

City and zoo representatives announced on Thursday that the Bear Park on the banks of the River Aare is to be extended to its originally intended size of 8,400 square metres. For cost reasons the enclosure – celebrating its tenth anniversary on Saturday – was reduced to 6,500 square metres, roughly the size of a football pitch.

Björk and the crowd look at each other at the Bern Bear Park on October 25, 2009 Keystone

Also on Thursday the Bern Animal Park Dählhölzli just up the river said it wanted to breed bears again, after previous attempts partly failed dramatically. In addition, an area the size of seven football pitches will be devoted to bears in the Gantrisch Nature Park. Cost estimates are not yet available for the facilities.

Bernd Schildger, director of the animal park, said many facilities were needed to keep the bear species going and bring it closer to people.

Today, three bears live in the bear park: male bear Finn (now sterilised), female bear Björk and their daughter Ursina. Another cub, Berna, was moved to another zoo because she and her mother clashed.

Ursina (left) and Finn splash around in the Bern Bear Park in June 2013 Keystone

Efforts to breed the bears Misha and Masha – a gift to Bern from former Russian President Dimitri Medvedev – ended in disaster in 2014. The male black grizzly Misha killed one of his sons by throwing him around in front of a shocked public. The other son was put to sleep a few days later, triggering a debate about rearing bears in captivity.

Sometimes it's all just too much: Ursina (front) and Berna at the Bern Bear Park in August 2011 Keystone

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