Is brown bear cub Medo the new Knut?
In a case with striking parallels with that of world-famous polar bear Knut, Medo, who takes his name from the Slovenian word for bear, wandered into the garden of the Logar family in the Slovenian village of Podvrh four weeks ago.
He looked gaunt and subdued, having most likely been abandoned by his mother. The Logar family were cautious at first, but the plight of the young bear won over their misgivings about engaging with a wild species.
“One morning when we woke up, we found him together with the dog, they were next to the dog house. At first we left him alone, we thought that his mother was close by. When she still hadn’t come by the afternoon, we approached him and saw that he was very emaciated. For the first few days we were not sure he will make it,” Matjaz Logar said.
The bear weighed a gaunt 3 kilos (6.6 pounds) when it arrived at the Logars, but regular meals and treats mean he quickly made up the difference and is now a healthy 15 kilos (33 pounds).
Apart from the curious exploration of his environment by climbing up trees and sniffing around like any young animal, Medo likes to play fight with his human family, and is especially attached to the family’s dogs. By now a member of the family, the Logars cannot imagine him not being around.
“We have a plan, we started making a fence for him. The law requires 100 square meters (yards), but we plan to give him 900 square meters (yards) in the forest at the top of the hill. So far it doesn’t seem that we will make it, because the state is giving us problems. But in case he leaves us we would like to see that he has appropriate space, not just a little cage. We would like to see that he gets big space, appropriate for a bear,” Logar added.
But Slovenian animal experts say that come adulthood and the development of his natural killer instincts, it will be an entirely different matter. Presented with the Logars’ plan, the country’s environment inspectors and vets have deemed it too dangerous for the family and the village and are urging for Medo to be placed into a shelter for wild animals.
“It is a fact that we can not let in our environment this kind of (tame) bear because we can endanger the whole population. This kind of bear has lost his safe distance towards a human. So he might approach people, go to their houses and make problems which can bring the whole species into bad light,” said Ivan Kos, professor at Biotechnical Faculty, University in Ljubljana, department of Ecology and environment protection.
“Keeping a bear as a member of a certain animal species without an intense social intercourse poses a problem, because it is hard for us to understand what the bear feels. The communication between a human and a bear is important and very difficult to reach. One needs a lot of specific knowledge. All in all a naive and lay opinion that one can just have a bear and communicate and live with him closely is, as far as I believe, unrealistic”.
While it’s too early to tell if Medo will ever be a global superstar as Knut, who died suddenly earlier this year after a short life in the media spotlight, the cuddliness and spirit of the bear are undeniable and seem to have won Slovenia’s hearts. His case is now widely discussed in national media, and Medo even has his own Facebook page with over 500 fans – their numbers growing almost as fast as Medo himself.