The Singapore Zoo bade a sad farewell this morning to one of its most well-loved animals, polar bear Inuka. The 27-year-old was put down this morning (April 25) on 'humane and welfare grounds'.
Inuka was known as the world’s first polar bear born in the tropics, on December 26, 1990.
The health of the Zoo’s golden resident and Singapore's last polar bear had declined markedly in the past three months.
In addition to age-related ailments such as arthritis and general muscle atrophy among others, Inuka had recently started exhibiting a stiffer gait, particularly in his hind limbs, which contributed to open sores on his paw pads and led to infection between his toes. Aside from that, he also had a wound on his lower abdomen, likely caused by urine burns from incontinence and recurring urinary tract infections, said Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) in a statement on Wednesday (April 25).
His condition did not improve significantly despite intensive treatment after a preliminary health examination three weeks ago. According to the statement, the zoo vets and his care team agreed to not revive him from anesthesia on humane and welfare grounds following a second health examination today.
Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Wildlife Reserves Singapore's (WRS) deputy chief executive officer and chief life sciences officer, said: "Our decision to let Inuka go was made with the knowledge that his health issues have seriously impacted his welfare." WRS runs the zoo.
"As much as we would like to keep Inuka with us for as long as possible, our ultimate responsibility is his welfare," Dr Cheng added.
At 27 years, Inuka was akin to a human being in his 70s, and had outlived the lifespan of wild male polar bears by more than a decade. In the wild, male polar bears typically live between 15 and 18 years, said WRS.
Its upkeep since birth was supported by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). SPH Foundation, the charity arm of SPH, took over the adoption from 2007.
“Singaporeans have known Inuka from the time he was a cub, and have seen him growing up and ageing. Many of us grew up with him. It has been a privilege and honour being his caregiver, but difficult as it may be, it would not have been fair to prolong his suffering.
"We would like to thank the many people who showed their love and concern for Inuka, especially this past month. We will miss our Inuka dearly and it will take some time to get used to not seeing him readily waiting to greet us every morning,” said Mohan Ponichamy, Deputy Head Keeper, and one of Inuka’s primary caregivers.
Bye Inuka, you will be missed.