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Cat Defender

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Monday, June 30, 2008

The Berlin Zoo Reunites Old Friends Muschi and Mauschen after a Brief Enforced Separation

"They greeted each other and had a cuddle and now they're happy."
-- Heiner Kloes

Long before there was Knut and Thomas Dorflein the Berlin Zoologischer Garten had Muschi and Mauschen. In fact, the bond that has developed between the black cat of undetermined age and the forty-year-old Asiatic black bear is arguably even more amazing than the one that exists between the orphaned polar bear and his surrogate mother. (See photo above.)

For eight years, Muschi and Mauschen were practically inseparable. "They sunbathed together and shared meals of raw meat, dead mice, fruit and bread," the zoo's Heiner Kloes told the Daily Mail on June 16th. (See "Pictured: The Cat and Bear -- Best Friends Who Simply Can't Bear to Be Apart.")

Unfortunately, the good times came to an abrupt end last October when Mauschen was locked in a cage while her living quarters were enlarged. Deprived of the company of her best friend, Muschi would sit outside Mauschen's cage and pine.

Earlier this month, zookeepers corrected their prior mistake and allowed Muschi to rejoin her friend in her cage. "They greeted each other and had a cuddle and now they're happy," Kloes added.

According to Kloes, Muschi strolled onto the grounds of the zoo sometime in 2000 and soon thereafter struck up a friendship with Mauschen. Since the two got along so well together, the zoo decided not to interfere.

The fact that the pair quickly became such a popular attraction with the zoo's elderly and regular patrons no doubt played a role in that decision. Muschi is moreover reported to have quite a following with the public.

Although no one can say with any degree of certainty, Kloes theorizes that Mauschen's mothering instinct is the reason behind her acceptance of Muschi. This analysis is buttressed by the fact that the eight-hundred-eighty-one-pound bear has gone out of her way in order to protect the nine-pound cat from male bears intent upon eating her.

Normally, cats keep their distance from bears but that is not always the case. A few years back, an orange and white declawed tomcat named Jack twice in one day treed a black bear that had wandered into his yard in West Milford, New Jersey. (See Cat Defender post of June 19, 2006 entitled "Irresponsible Cat Owner Allows Declawed Tomcat Named Jack to Tangle with Black Bear in Northern New Jersey.")

According to Jack's owner, Donna Dickey, her then ten-year-old obese cat is very possessive about his yard and routinely chases off any squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and mice brazen enough to venture onto his turf. Of course, the fact that he was been mutilated may in part account for his aggressiveness.

Considering the magnitude of the crimes that the zoo's director, Bernhard Blaszkiewitz, has committed against both cats and bears it is truly amazing that Muschi and Mauschen are even still alive. (See photo above of him cutting the cake at Knut's first birthday party on December 5th of last year.)

Most glaringly, Blaszkiewitz readily admits to having used his own hands in order to break the necks of four stray cats back in 1991. "Ich halte es nach wie vor fur richtig," he defended his actions in an interview with Die Welt on March 28th. (See "Berliner Zoo-Chef rechtfertigt Katzen-Totung.") "Es geht eine grosse Gefahr von verwilderten Hauskatzen aus fur Mensch und Tier. Deswegen konnen sie in so einem Raum nicht geduldet werden."

He was singing an entirely different tune a few weeks later when he was hauled before parliament and forced to account for his murderous conduct. "Es ist nicht zu andern, ich habe es gemacht. Na klar, heute wurde ich es nicht mehr tun," he is reported as having told the legislators in the April 14th edition of Die Welt. (See "Zoo-Chef bedauert erstmals Katzentotung.") "Ich bin siebzehn-Jahre alter."

Blaszkiewitz is now working with Wolfgang Apel of the Deutschen Tierschutzverband whose organization now traps, sterilizes, and then relocates any cats that wander onto the grounds of the zoo. For whatever it is worth, Apel insists that the zoo no longer kills cats.

None of that, however, explains why Muschi has not been given the bum's rush. Most likely, she owes her continued good health to all the euros that her legions of fans deposit in the zoo's coffers.

Blaszkiewitz also has been accused of selling three elderly Asiatic bears to a slaughterhouse in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, PETA has filed a criminal complaint against the zoo for killing more than one-hundred-fifty animals and for confining ten bears in cramped quarters at Berlin's Tierpark, which Blaszkiewitz also oversees. (See Die Welt, April 18, 2008, "Tierschutzorganisation PETA zeigt Zoo-Chef an.")

Others have accused Blaszkiewitz of selling tigers and jaguars to the Chinese who in turn kill them so that they can harvest their valuable body parts in order to make potions that are used in the ongoing struggle against impotency. Furthermore, on June 5th, a goat was taken from the petting zoo, slaughtered, and fed to wolves in full view of the public. (See Der Spiegel, June 6, 2008, "Berlin Zoo Feeds Goat to Wolves.")

At age forty, Mauschen is the equivalent of one-hundred-twelve in human terms. With the exception of occasional bouts of arthritis on wet and windy days, she appears to be otherwise in good health. Muschi, meanwhile, must be quite a cat in order to have avoided being killed by either the bears or other large carnivores at the zoo. In certain respects, zoos are even more of a jungle than nature.

Photos: Daily Mail (Muschi and Mauschen) and Der Spiegel via Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Blaszkiewitz).