“The very moment he mounted her, something went wrong.”
Baloo and Aurora may have been named after two Disney greats — but they did not have a fairy tale ending.
The female polar bear was shipped 1,900 miles to a new zoo in Russia in the hopes she would breed; but instead she was killed by her new mate the first time they copulated.
According to the Siberian Times, Aurora had lived with a bear named Felix for ten years at Krasnoyarsk zoo but had never produced any offspring, so they decided to try to match her with a new suitor named Baloo at Izhevsk zoo.
Staff were so excited about the hook-up, they even began expanding the enclosure for future cubs.
"Their meeting was destined for fate. Both are purebred, pretty, originally from nature with valuable genetic material," they wrote on social media, ahead of their March 6 meeting.
"Baloo is an impressive man, moderately delicate, stubborn, a real macho. His fiancée Aurora, previously from Krasnoyarsk Zoo, is a true lady, calm, neat, intelligent, observant, insanely attractive, and damn pretty. It is impossible to resist such a lady. So the question of whether the bears liked was clear."
A video recorded by the zoo shows their first encounter; the smaller female advances to check out her new man, who backpedals with trepidation, before she shrugs and turns away, seemingly unimpressed… which in hindsight might have been a bad omen.
Despite the firework-less first meeting, the pair enjoyed a two week courtship, playing, swimming and basking in the sun together.
It appeared Aurora was in heat and receptive; but when the big moment came — it went terribly wrong.
"At the very moment he mounted her, something went wrong," Krasnoyarsk Head Keeper Andrey Gorban said. "Aurora showed her character, and Baloo was furious."
Immediately seeing something was amiss, keepers threw water at the much larger male, and shot him with a tranquilizer dart — but it was already too late.
"He fell near Aurora but she was already dead," Gorban said.
Footage of the vicious attack exists, but has not been released. Devastated keepers at both zoos have analyzed it, trying to figure out what went wrong and led to the fatal attack, believed to be the first of its kind in captivity.
"Everything happens in nature, but in zoos this is the first case, and we will carefully study what happened, both for ourselves and for science," Gorban said. "I haven’t studied it thoroughly so far, but world-class specialists cannot remember such cases in zoos. It was a completely unexpected outbreak of aggression."
He said that while males have been known to kill females for food, it is very unlikely during estrus.
"Everything was absolutely normal, otherwise they would not have been connected," he said.
Krasnoyarsk Zoo had rescued Aurora when she was just a cub, after her mother died in the wilderness.
Gorban told the zoo’s followers on social media : "It is unbearably hard to report this tragic news. Our Aurora is gone."
"Just the day before yesterday we were happy that our white giants found each other, loved each other. We were hoping to see the offspring. Spacious enclosures for little cubs were already being built in Royev Ruchey."
"But the sudden conflict crushed our hopes… only emptiness is left."
Baloo’s home meanwhile issued a statement: "Unfortunately, such situations happen in the animal world."
"The reason for the conflict between two recently completely peacefully coexisting polar bears Aurora and Baloo remains a mystery. For several weeks after the connection, they got along well with each other, played together, bathed, basked under the spring sun."
"The zoo employees made every possible effort to resolve an unforeseen, sudden conflict situation. But, unfortunately, all efforts were in vain."
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