Who wants to adopt two baby bears?

July 13, 2010, 5 Comments

For the last week, there has been only one local news story in Bern: its bears. First we discovered that the seven-month old twins were actually two boys, not one of each as previously thought; no-one had been able to get close enough to check up until now. Trouble was that they had already been named (babies in Switzerland are named within hours of entering the world, and bears are no exception). One was called Urs, rather predictably, the other Berna. But it was decided that Berna would not suffer any identity crisis from having a girlie name. No seriously, that was discussed in the papers.

The big shock came on Sunday. Urs and Berna might have to be put to sleep. Or turned into dog food. Either way in about 18 months’ time, they’d be too big to stay with their mother Björk, and too male to stay together as adults. With a surplus of brown bears in zoos around the world, finding a new home that wasn’t a circus would be almost impossible. Imagine the reaction. After all, since they first appeared in public, the twins have attracted a million visitors to the Bärenpark. And appeared on Youtube:


Unfortunately, while the bears bring in the crowds, they don’t bring in much money. Entry to the newly-completed Bärenpark is free, and the extra sales in the gift shop don’t quite make up for the huge overspend on the bears’ new home. It came in at double the budget. Sometimes even the Swiss can get it wrong when it comes to money matters. And once the twins are past the cuddly and cute stage, will anyone come and see them? It looks like they won’t even have the chance. Urs and Berna need a new home or the picnic is over for these bears.

That doesn’t mean that Bern will no longer have any bears. The parents, Finn and Björk, will still be there, and out at the bears’ woodland home are Mischa and Mascha, orphaned cubs that were a gift from the Russian president. Just as well, as legend has it that Bern will fall if it loses all its bears. In fact, Bern means bears. Literally. It’s said that when the city of Bern was founded back in the 12th century, it was named after the first animal found on a hunting trip in the forest. Just as well they didn’t find a deer or a wolf, or the city would never have been called Bern, from the German Baeren, meaning bears.

Ever since, there have been bears in Bern. The city’s main square, built over a moat where the bears used to live many moons ago, is called Bärenplatz, and Canton Bern’s flag hosts a particularly fine specimen – and a particularly male one. You might notice that his penis is as red as his tongue and claws, a detail defined by a 1957 law. But it took until last year for Bern’s bears to have a home fit for such a noble animal. They were moved out of their cramped concrete pit into the luxury riverside Bärenpark. Then the twins were born and all looked rosy. Until now.

 So if you know anyone who fancies a bear, let them know that there are two in Bern in need of a new den before it’s too late. Just make sure they buy in lots of honey first.

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5 Comments on "Who wants to adopt two baby bears?"

  1. Colin Bewes Tuesday July 13th, 2010 at 09:38 AM · Reply

    Oh, the emotional stress…what will happen to Urs and Berna …. I can’t bear it!

    (sorry, couldn’t resist …do the Swiss do puns?)

    • swisswatching Tuesday July 13th, 2010 at 09:41 AM · Reply

      I hope you noticed I resisted the urge for a pun all the way through. Must be getting more Swiss as days go by

  2. Katharina Wednesday July 14th, 2010 at 11:44 PM · Reply

    Well the Swiss media talk a lot about gender mainstreaming.
    Under the theory of gendermainstreaming, gender per se is secondary to the identity. in order to uphold the canocinal rule of that theory, one must not bother to look what gender the poor pub actually was born with.

    I find the argument of Too Male amusing. I thought that that is binary, or either or.

    Consequently, to uphold the canonical rule, they must have found it advisable to convert them to dog food where no one can make out a difference. which of course will be evidence of the benefits of gender mainstreaming.

    Instead, they could raise a little money to keep the town pets alive. they might find some of that money behind a trash dump on the marzili wiese, where the UBS guys running the Bundeshaus probably brushed it under the carpet.

    Well, this little cat here goes for a swim now. No bears here, just another cat.

  3. Maxine Saturday July 24th, 2010 at 09:44 PM · Reply

    Hi Diccon,

    I was thrilled to hear you on Radio 4 this morning speaking to Sandi Toksvig (and indeed the nation!) and after a quick detour via Amazon to order a copy of your book I find myself here reading your wonderful blog.

    I’m relieved to read that the bears are no longer in the concrete pit. I visited the City once on a day trip from Basel where I lived and worked at the time and despite finding Bern to be absolutely delightful I was horrified at the sight two creatures living what seemed like a very miserable existence.

    I lived and worked in Basel many, many years ago and struggled with all the usual *cough, cough* issues that Auslanders have to contend with. Coupled with desperate homesickness it did nothing at all to endear me to the Swiss, sadly, although I have returned since and certainly feel that if I were to live there now I could certainly give it a bit more welly and enjoy it for what it is and not for what I always wanted it to be. I loved the idea of living in Switzerland at the time but the reality was much more of a struggle.

    I am simply beside myself with excitement at the prospect of reading your book as I am certain that it will bring back memories and make me chuckle.

    • swisswatching Sunday July 25th, 2010 at 07:02 AM · Reply

      Hi Maxine. Glad you found me via my little chat with Sandi. I loved doing the programme, and would happily be a return guest.

      Sorry you didn’t enjoy your time in Switzerland; I’ve been here five years and am still wonderfully happy – which I hope comes across in the book. Please let me know what you think once you’ve read it. And go back and write a review on Amazon as that helps immensely.

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