• Belfast Between The Wars

BELFAST MAN’S PET SLOTH BEAR: ARRIVES AT BELLEVUE, “HOUSE-TAME” ASSURANCE

Belfast Telegraph, Saturday 4th December 1937


BUT HEAD KEEPER IS DOUBTFUL


“Tame, but take no risks,” was printed on top of a heavy crate which arrived at Bellevue Zoological Gardens this morning. It contained a rare sloth bear from South India, but the name “sloth” in the case of George, as the bear is named, seems to be inappropriate, for a less slothful animal has never been seen in Bellevue.


On the bear’s arrival, Mr. Foster, the head keeper, decided to take George from the heavy crate in which he had travelled from India, and lead him along the path to his new home in the zoo. And as George was represented to be tame, and wore a leather collar, no great difficulty was expected. But no sooner did the bear get outside than he turned with a swiftness almost impossible to believe in such a clumsy looking animal, and attached Mr. Foster fiercely with teeth and claws, scratching, biting and snarling like a perfect demon. Fortunately two assistant keepers were at hand, and between then George, still fighting fiercely, was inducted to enter the safety of a cage.


George is a Christmas gift to the zoo, from Mr. Noel Thompson, a former resident of Belfast, who is at present living in India, and who assured the authorities that the bear was “house-tame”. But the long voyage to Ireland and the presence of strangers around him, instead of his old friend and master, Mr. Thompson, apparently upset the animal, and caused him to give an exhibition of the well-known bad temper of bears.


In spite of this exhibition George is a very welcome addition to the zoo, as he is the first of his species to be seen there. He presents a most comical appearance with long, shaggy untidy looking hair, with mobile, protrusible lips, a whitish muzzle, and long which claws, instead of the usual black ones. He is of special interest to students of literature, as he belongs to the species of bear made famous at Kipling’s “Baloo.”


Find out more about the history of Belfast Zoo here.


Find out more about sloth bears here.