Alaska Zoo separates popular brown, polar bears

Posted: Monday, June 02, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) The Alaska Zoo has broken up one of its most popular attractions the exhibit combining Ahpun the polar bear and Oreo the brown bear.

When they arrived five years ago as orphaned female cubs, the bears dazzled visitors with their antics. They wrestled, chased toys, groomed each other and slept together.

The bears now weigh more than 700 pounds, and as the years passed, Oreo became more and more aggressive. Ahpun often was cowed instead of playing in her pool.

Ahpun and Oreo were separated 10 days ago after the brown bear gave her longtime companion two minor wounds during a roaring, tooth-baring spat. The incident climaxed years of increasing bullying by Oreo, said curator Pat Lampi.

Lampi locked up Oreo to give Ahpun a chance to explore the exhibit alone. The bear was immediately more playful and curious when Oreo was inside.

''Once she figured out that Oreo wasn't coming out for a while, she would hit the pool and swim and play for an hour,'' he said.

Unless someone suggests a scheme for safely reintroducing them, the bears will lead separate lives, according to the zoo.

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