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PETA wants polar bear death at STL Zoo investigated

Churchill died last month (photo from St. Louis Zoo)
Churchill died last month (photo from St. Louis Zoo)

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Officials with the St. Louis Zoo insist staff members did not leave foreign objects in the living area of a bear who later died.

The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -PETA - is calling for a federal investigation of the incident.

An 18-year-old polar bear named Churchill died on the operating table two weeks ago as veterinarians tried to remove a cloth and bits of a bag that were blocking his stomach.

PETA says an anonymous whistleblower sent the group a letter alleging negligence on the part of zookeepers.

"To make matters worse," said PETA's Lisa Wathne, "the zoo management delayed doing an exploratory surgery on Churchill, which ultimately led to his death."

But St. Louis Zoo Wildcare Institute director Eric Miller says the objects probably got into the animal's area by accident.

"We've told what we know about the case. Nobody stepped forward to say how it got in there. The plastic blew in, or it was accidental. But unless somebody saw it who has not stepped forward, we don't know."

Miller says the zoo is taking extra precautions to keep similar incidents from happening again.