Two polar bear cubs that captured Germany's attention have died, and the zoo thinks their mother ate them, Der Spiegel reports. The Nuremberg Zoo's decision not to interfere with the cubs' survival, despite reports that the mother might have been neglecting them, caused a storm of criticism, which is now likely to intensify. Zoo officials speculated that the cubs may have died from disease, saying in a statement, "We assume that Vilma took excellent care of her cubs until the end."
The zoo had been determined to avoid the media circus that surrounded the hand-rearing of Knut, the cub rejected by his mother in the Berlin Zoo last year. An animal welfare group called the Nuremberg Zoo's attitude "cynical" and argued that the cubs deserved a chance at life. A third polar bear cub born to another mother has been spotted and is said to be doing fine.