Mom Bear Eats Two of Her Cubs, Loses Custody of Third

Khali the National Zoo's sloth bear gave birth to three cubs in December. It would have been a joyous occasion, had Khali not immediately eaten one cub and then, a week later, consumed another.

Zookeepers removed the third cub after they noticed he had been neglected by his mother and was in poor health.

"It's a serious decision if you're going to pull a cub," Mindy Babitz, a sloth bear expert at the zoo, told the Washington Post. "We want cubs to be raised by their mom. That's an ideal situation. We're doing everything we can to be a surrogate mom to her. But we're not bears."

Details of the cub's care, from the Washington City Paper:

Keepers, according to the zoo release, stay with the cub 24 hours a day, feeding her at regular intervals. They initially even carried the cub in a baby sling to simulate how cubs ride on their mothers' backs. Cubs typically stay with their mothers for three years.

Three months after he was taken from his mother, the cub is healthy—an "11-pound sphere of black fur and relentless curiosity," as the Post put it. He'll likely be on public exhibit sometime this summer.

As for the mama bear eating her young, Babitz said it was normal behavior in some cases, like if the cub is severely injured or dead.

"Life is tough in the wild," she said. "If a cub were to pass away and you were to just leave that carcass laying around, that would attract a predator. And that's not safe for mom."