When Animals Attack: Polar Bear Attacks a 32-year-old Woman Who Jumped Into a Polar Bear Enclosure at Berlin Zoo

Animals and people have always had a complicated dynamic. They’re unable to communicate effectively and often fear one another, creating violence and disaster. On the other hand, some can become lifelong companions and every now and then, a very sweet encounter happens. Proving that love an, compassion, and kindness can succeed. 

Instances in Which Animals Attack

For centuries, humans and animals have shared the planet we call home. Dogs and cats have become domesticated, exchanging companionship and protection for food and shelter. Another route that humans have taken to get an inside look at animals, are zoos and aquariums. Sadly, although many are on a mission for conservation, some animals have been treated poorly by humans, and have taught their young to be on alert.

Deadly Polar Bear

One example happened in 2009. A woman was attacked by a Polar Bear at the Berlin Zoo. It turns out that the woman had jumped into the enclosure during feeding time. Somehow, she was eventually rescued and treated for her injuries. Although the attack wasn’t fatal, it does bring up a great question. What possessed that woman to jump in there in the first place?

A director at the zoo in Columbus, Ohio commented on the woman. “What she’s done here, she should thank the good Lord she’s alive. It’s amazing to me.” He exclaimed.

Encounters Going Back Decades

Sadly, that isn’t the only instance of animals in captivity attacking humans, a few instances have taken place since all the way back to 1987. Seaworld trainer Joanne Webber was working with Orca Kandu V during a practice run when the animal leapt from the water and landed on her. He then thrust her under water. Her story is sad because it highlights both her struggle as an employee and the whale’s struggle in captivity. Ironically, this isn’t the only story involving a seemingly violent orca.

In another instance, an Orca living in the wild has instigated, or taken part in, around 500 attacks against fishing boats. Experts believe that she had a traumatic run in with a fishing boat while she was pregnant and now, she’s been teaching other Orca whales to attack.

Moreover, disgruntled animals are held captive all over the world, in many instances to help with conservation efforts. Sadly, this doesn’t mean that all captive animals have always been treated well. Other examples of animal attacks include a 2006 instance in which a tiger attacked a zookeeper during feeding time. That same tiger then went on to attack 3 tourists, killing one, the following year after getting loose from her San Fransisco Zoo enclosure.

In 2007, another incident took place, this time clear across the world, in Beijing, China. A young boy entered the panda enclosure and sustained severe injuries. Fortunately, he lived through the experience.

And of course, who could forget 2016. A 3-year-old boy climbed into an enclosure in the Cincinatti Zoo, costing a gorilla named Harambe his life.

More recently, California surfers were warned against otter attacks, when the animals were recorded going after surf boards.

Reasons for an Attack

It seems there are a handful of reasons that animals attack people. Meaning they don’t usually attack for no reason at all. According to experts the reasons an animal will attack a human are as follows.

  1. Hunger
  2. Fear- Fear causes people and animals alike to become violent, unpredictable, or erratic.
  3. Curiosity- If an animal attack occurs out of nowhere, it could simply be an attempt to play or better understand a foreign object. However, animals don’t have any sense of boundaries or their own strength and may therefore, play too rough.
  4. Trauma- Aligning with fear, many animals have experienced some kind of trauma at the hands of humans, refer to the Orca attacking fishing boats.
  5. Protecting Babies
  6. Protecting Territory
  7. Confusion- For example, sharks feed on seals, however they may accidently eat a surfer or swimmer in a black wet suit mistaking them for a seal.
  8. Cluelessness- People may approach a wild animal too closely, causing fear. As previously mentioned, when animals are afraid, they become unpredictable, sometimes leading to an attack.

Alternatively, a wild animal can have rabies and may attack entirely unprovoked. There is no cure for rabies and sadly, once a person starts realizing they may have the disease, it’s already well on its way to fatal.

Avoiding a Potential Attack

  1. Research you journey. Know exactly what kind of animals you might encounter while on a hike or camping and be prepared. Some examples may include carrying anti-venom medication, bug-bite cream, or an EpiPen.
  2. Remain Calm and Don’t Run. This will help show the animal that you are not a threat and keep you safe because animals often enjoy the thrill of a chase.
  3. Make noise and Stand Tall. This will give off the impression that you’re more intimidating than you actually are.
  4. Always follow the rules you’re given went venturing on a safari or at a national park.
  5. Wear camouflage and don’t use bright lights.
  6. NEVER feed wild animals.

Animals Can Love

Alternatively, when animals are treated with love and kindness, they’ll often go to great lengths to return the favor and there are plenty of examples of that too. In 2018, an 8-month-old Pitbull named Sasha saved her owner and her owner’s 7-month-old baby when their apartment building caught fire.

That same year a Humpback Whale reportedly saved a Marine Biologist from a shark attack.

Another instance involves another gorilla and little boy. Fortunately, this story has a happier ending when in 1996, Binti Jua, a western lowland gorilla, cradled in injured boy in her arms until rescuers arrived to help him.

Lastly, in 2000, some sea lions saved the life of 19-year-old Kevin Hines after a suicide attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge, leading to San Fransisco.

There is a wide range of heartwarming or sad animal encounters online. Seemingly the most important element of having a good animal encounter is to be kind, gentle, and wise. Unsurprisingly, the same is true of people encountering one another also.


  1. “Why Do Animals Attack Humans (and Ways to Prevent it).” Earth Eclipse
  2. Polar Bear Attacks Woman in Berlin Zoo.” ABC News Josh Gaynor. 2009
  3. Sea Lion Savior.Psych Alive. Kevin Hines
  4. 10 Miraculous Times Animals Stepped in to Save Human Lives.Green Planet. Nadia Schwingle
  5. Calif. Surfers Warned About Aggressive Otter After Animal Is Filmed Attacking Surfboards — Watch!People. Michael Simpson July 12, 2023