WASHINGTON, D.C. (PIX11) — A mama bear at the National Zoo has lost custody of her cub after zookeepers say she ate the first two.
Khali, a sloth bear, gave birth to three cubs last December.
The bear, that usually only consumes bugs and worms, immediately ate one of the cubs.
A week later, Khali ate a second cub, the Washington Post reports.
It was at that point, zookeepers decided to pull the one-pound third cub, choosing to raise the bear by hand themselves.
“It’s a serious decision if you’re going to pull a cub,” said Mindy Babitz, a sloth bear expert at the zoo told the Washington Post. “We want cubs to be raised by their mom. That’s an ideal situation. We’re doing everything we can to be a surrogate mom to her. But we’re not bears.”
Experts say animals in the wild will often consume sick offspring, as the cubs dead body would attract predators.
“When she consumed that second cub, that’s what alerted us to, ‘Okay, something’s probably wrong,’ and that’s why we went ahead and pulled the third one,” Babitz told the paper.
The cub is now 11 pounds and healthy.
There are only about 10,000 sloth bears left in the wild.
“It’s very rewarding to know that I’m contributing to the conservation of the species,” Babitz said.