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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Making the Moost of It: 'Neurotic, Bipolar Bear'

Aired July 2, 2002 - 08:51   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yesterday on the program, we were talking about this polar bear at the Central Park Zoo here in New York. His name is Gus, and he's nuts. He's an obsessive swimmer. All he did was swim back and forth across this pool. He's crazy, obsessive-compulsive; heís a lunatic, Gus. They spent $50,000 to fix his environment, give him some stimulation so heíd have something to do besides swim back and forth, and now they're convinced he's no longer nuts but heís happy.

CNNís Jeanne Moos takes a closer look at Gus and his trials and tribulations here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you get for the polar bear who has everything? How about an endless pool? They normally sell to humans for around 17,000 bucks. Now the manufacturer has donated one to Gus and his two girlfriends at the Central Park Zoo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is like watching a kid in a water park, you know, with a water slide.

MOOS: The press has dubbed Gus "the neurotic, bipolar bear." It started eight years ago when Gus was swimming around and around so obsessively that the zoo hired the animal behaviorists who trained the whale in "Free Willy" to try and help Gus. A couple of wise guys even published a humor book called "What's Worrying Gus?" Youíd worry, too, if you were mistaken for a turtle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Giant turtle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Polar bear.

MOOS: But Gus was no more neurotic than many bored zoo animals, and Gus's keepers have been going out of their way to spice up his life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's writing Gus' name right on there.

MOOS: In peanut butter. Keepers now routinely hide treats for the bears, so they can forage for food. They encase food in ice and supply toys such as the polar bear log. And now --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They put in a new special swimming pool for them.

MOOS: Actually, it is a pumping propeller that creates enough current to hold a bear in place. So you swim but you don't go anywhere. You still have exercise?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like a hamster wheel?

MOOS: Well, sort of like a hamster wheel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when itís on, they -- Gus likes to swim below it; he swims against it. Ivy just floats on it. She doesnít push right to the back of it -- I think they like it a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe it is a massage for a polar bear.

MOOS: Or at least a place for a bear to scratch its head. But if the bears get an endless pool, what do the sea lions get? Coming soon, car wash strips. Keepers plan to anchor them to the bottom of the sea lion exhibit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To replicate the long algae beds that you find in nature.

MOOS: This is a zoo where they even play taped toad mating calls to encourage breeding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like little toad love music, we call it, to get the females in the mood, basically.

MOOS: The maker of the endless pool has put the bears to music on his Web site. A Jacuzzi may make things bearable, but heaven is a polar ice cap.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Now, yesterday, a certain curmudgeon who will remain nameless said that maybe they should free Gus, to make Gus really happy, Gus should maybe go back where he came from, the North Pole. Jack, they can't send the bear back there. I mean, the bear was born in captivity. It was born in either Indianapolis or Toledo. They send it back to the North Pole and it will be gone in a week. And the only really obsessive neurotic -- the most obsessive neurotic folks up there are the keepers, because they're really trying to keep the bear happy. The bear is not that much more neurotic than any zoo animal.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Or us.

CAFFERTY: Are you like a bear therapist? How do you know?

MOOS: Well, that's what the behaviorists say. They say he behaves normally now. You know, he likes sex, food...

CAFFERTY: If you really want to stimulate Gus, put the sea lions in with him. That would stimulate Gus. Gus would be getting it on big time then.

HARRIS: I would think it would drive Gus even nuttier if he's swimming his butt off and he's still in front of the same rock.

MOOS: Well, the other thing I can say is the guy who owns the pool company donated this stuff, so -- and they did pay $25,000 to install it, but it isn't taxpayer money, itís donations.

ZAHN: Don't you feel a whole lot better about it, Jack, knowing that those weren't your hard-earned tax dollars that went into this project?

CAFFERTY: I was simply suggesting that polar bears were not meant to be captive animals in a zoo someplace. We have made them that way. And for somebody to say now the bear is happy seems a little bit strange to me, when, in fact, the natural environment is, you know, being free and open to do what whoever put them here intended for them to do. Somebody said, well, now he's happy. Well, I don't know. I mean, if they took you out of your environment, put you in a cage someplace, and let people come and throw debris into that environment every day and feed you stuff that made you sick every day, would that make you happy?

MOOS: Free Jack!

ZAHN: Free Jack!

HARRIS: You know, Iím new around here, but do they always have to separate you two like this?

CAFFERTY: No.

ZAHN: Do you think the zoo keepers are on to something with the cricket tapes, for all of us who aren't...

HARRIS: Thatís a good idea. I donít know.

CAFFERTY: Tell the viewers what you said when you heard about the frogs.

ZAHN: I said that may be the cure for everyone's sex life, if theyíre complaining about that. The cricket tapes and the frogs...

CAFFERTY: The toads going on in the bedroom.

ZAHN: You could do a little survey on that, Jeanne.

MOOS: I donít know.

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