Castrate' Polar Bear, Says PETA: BIG PIC

Animal rights group PETA wants Knut the polar bear castrated to avoid incestuous mating.

Mar. 3, 2010 -- An animal rights group has called for Knut the polar bear, who shot to global stardom as a cub in 2007, to be castrated to avoid incest with his cousin.

The three-year-old darling of Berlin Zoo was given a female companion, Giovanna, last year but the German chapter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) warned against their mating.

The group's zoo expert, Frank Albrecht, noted that Knut and Giovanna, known as Gianna for short, had the same grandfather.

Any offspring would threaten the genetic diversity of the polar bear population in Germany and risk exposing the bear couple to a condition known as "incest depression", he said.

"Knut fans need to know that only Knut's castration would allow a long life together with Giovanna," Albrecht said in a statement. Gianna was placed with the strapping Knut in Berlin due to construction work on her own den in Munich. After chilly introductions, the two have grown quite close.

Knut drew an outpouring of sympathy around the globe after his mother cast him out as a cuddly cub.

At the height of his fame, Knut featured on the front page of a host of glossy magazines, including Vanity Fair.

Information source: AFP AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Spring has not even officially sprung yet, but zoos and aquariums nationwide are celebrating the births of baby animals.

The Oakland Zoo in California recently announced the birth of three meerkat pups, now part of the current mob (group of meerkats).

"It has been wonderful watching the mob raise the pups," zoological manager Victor Alm said. "It has truly been a collective effort and all the adults are taking their turns caring for and teaching the new pups their different roles and jobs needed to be a productive meerkat."

Clouded leopard cubs are a rite of spring at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's facility in Front Royal, Va.

The cubs are now part of an international program to conserve the species, which is threatened by deforestation and hunting.

"Wesa" the California condor chick is the first such chick of the season at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The chick is being "puppet reared."

"The puppet is like a fancy glove," explained Rob Webb, senior condor keeper, "It covers our hands so the chick does not get any beneficial experiences from people. We do not want it imprinting on people or getting used to us when it goes out into the wild. We want it to be a nice, wild animal, not relying on people for food."

A baby orangutan delivered by C-section is doing well at Zoo Atlanta. Mother Blaze, now recovered, spends most days running over to her son, squeaking softly to him, and then hugging him onto her chest.

Keepers are providing the baby boy with environmental enrichment so that he is stimulated both mentally and physically. He is fascinated by his own reflection in a provided mirror.

A juvenile harbor seal had a rough start to life. Found off the coast of Delaware, he was suffering from abrasions and a severe respiratory infection.

Thanks to round-the-clock care provided by dedicated staff at the National Aquarium's Marine Animal Rescue Program, he is now on the mend. He has been enjoying a hearty diet of smelt and herring fish.

Five lion cubs were recently born at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. During their last exam, the three females were found to weigh 19 to 22 pounds each, while the two males both came in at 23 pounds.

Mother "Mfisha" keeps the cubs in line and gently cleans each with her tongue.

A baby boy southern white rhino named "Kayode" is already said to be taking charge of his habitat at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California.

"Kayode is a little tank, a very cute little tank, and he is showing lots of personality," said Jane Kennedy, lead keeper at the park.

"He loves running and interacting with his mom, sticking out his tongue, and showing the buffalo in his enclosure he's a rhino and he's in charge."

The giant Pacific octopus at the National Aquarium is just a baby, but as an adult it could weigh up to 90 pounds.

Aquarium staff members are providing enrichment to encourage cognitive development. One such brainteaser involves providing the octopus with a container in which food has been hidden. The octopus learns how to open the container and, with its 1,800 suction cups, finds the tasty fishy morsels.

The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans is proudly showing off its baby babirusa. Babirusas are forest-dwelling wild pigs native to Malaysia.

This youngster seems to follow mom wherever she goes in their sun-filled exhibit.

Five-week-old baby gorilla "Gladys Stones" is melting hearts at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

She was actually born at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Texas, hence her first name. "Stones" is to recognize the Stones Family who cared for her during her first few weeks of life before she traveled to Cincinnati.

Gladys appears to be very happy at her new home, affectionately grabbing primate keepers by the shirt with her fingers.