Til Tragedy Aftermath: Zoo Rejects Offers of Replacement Earless Bunnies

Breeders moved by the sad story of Til, the baby bunny born with no ears and crushedby a cameraman on Wednesday, have offered the stricken zoo replacement earless rabbits. But zoo director Uwe Dempewolf has said no. "We're just going to carry on," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Monday.

Irreplaceable: Til, the earless bunny. Zoom
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Irreplaceable: Til, the earless bunny.

The German zoo that owned Til, the rare baby rabbit born without ears who was tragically stepped on by a cameraman last Wednesday, has been offered a number of replacement earless rabbits.

But the director of the zoo in the small eastern town of Limbach-Oberfrohna, Uwe Dempewolf, told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Monday that he will decline all offers because it would be insensitive to accept them.

"We've had four or five offers from private breeders who heard about this regrettable event but we won't accept any, we're just going to carry on," said Dempewolf. "We'd be criticized if we simply said let's just take another one."

The death of Til was widely reported in the German and international media. It has come as no consolation to anyone that his posthumous fame is almost certainly greater than if he hadn't been stepped on.

Til, a cute, happy, ginger and black domestic rabbit who is survived by five siblings with ears, was being filmed by a camera team ahead of his presentation at a news conference on Thursday that the small zoo had hoped would make him a celebrity like Knut, Berlin's polar bear star, or Heidi, Leipzig Zoo's cross-eyed opossum, both dead.

Cameraman's Sorrow is Punishment Enough

The cameraman who killed him has only been named as Sascha D. Newspapers have refrained from giving his full name. Dempewolf said the zoo would not be seeking any compensation from the distraught man. "He's unhappy enough as it is," he said.

Sascha D. explained how the accident happened. "I was crouching down, took a step back and noticed I was standing on something," he told the Chemnitzer Morgenpost newspaper. "I'm so sorry."

Til's body is in a freezer and will be stuffed and exhibited at the zoo, which still has some 200 animals.

Dempewolf expressed surprise at the offers of earless rabbits he had received since Til's death. "They don't seem to be that rare, some mothers are over-attentive at birth and accidentally nibble their babies' ears off. Or it can be a genetic defect like with ours. There was no wound on Til's head."

Offers Include Grey Earless Rabbit With Big Paws

The tabloid newspaper Bild featured a photo of a grey bunny with no ears and very large paws that a breeder from the village of Niederdorf in Saxony had offered the zoo.

The tragedy occurred a few days ahead of the first anniversary of the death of polar bear Knut, one year ago on March 19, 2011. The Berlin Zoo is being criticized by Knut fans for failing to hold a ceremony to mark the event.

Zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz dismissed their sorrow with words that some might describe as harsh. Bild on Monday quoted him as saying: "You mourn people, not animals!" It is a sentiment very many people will disagree with.

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