Two female brown bears were shot and killed Friday after they escaped their inclosure at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, England.
According to a statement from the zoo’s chief curator, Malcolm Fitzpatrick, strong winds toppled a tree at the zoo Friday, causing it to fall in a way that created a “bridge” between the bears’ pen and the fence of a neighboring wild boar enclosure.
The two bears entered the enclosure and attacked a male boar, Fitzpatrick wrote, prompting zookeepers to euthanize the bears immediately before they could escape the boar enclosure, which has a low fence.
“No one wants to be the one to make that call, but when there’s an immediate threat to human life, the decision is made for you,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “The colleagues involved today have experienced the dreadful situation that every vet and keeper thoroughly trains for, but hopes will never come to pass.”
According to Fitzpatrick, tranquilizer guns take up to 20 minutes to take effect, and during that time animals can become more unpredictable and aggressive.
Veterinarians are treating the injured boar, he wrote.
A third bear in the enclosure did not leave and was called to her indoor den and secured.
“As zookeepers and animal carers, this situation is something we train to deal with through regular, rigorous drills – but one that we always hope we’ll never have to face,” wrote Fitzpatrick, who has promised a full investigation into the incident. “I’m devastated by the outcome of this morning’s incident, but I’m confident that our actions prevented any further loss of life.”