A recent study showed that people could die from sheer sadness or a "broken heart," and it seems animals could, too.
A polar bear in captivity in SeaWorld San Diego in the US unexpectedly died on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila)-due to a "broken heart," according to an animal rights organisation.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) suspected that 21-year-old female bear Szenja's (pronounced SIN'-jah) unusual death was caused by depression, after her "best friend" of 20 years, another polar bear named Snowflake, was moved to a zoo in Pittsburgh, according to Yahoo News.
"Szenja died of a broken heart, PETA believes," PETA Vice President Tracy Remain said. "After losing her companion of 20 years when SeaWorld shipped Snowflake to the Pittsburgh Zoo in order to breed more miserable polar bears, Szenja did what anyone would do when they lose all hope, she gave up."
In the days leading to her death, Szenja reportedly lost appetite and seemed lethargic after Snowflake's departure. Her caretakers remained puzzled as to what really happened.
"Szenja not only touched the hearts of those who have cared for her over the last two decades, but also the millions of guests who had a chance to see her in person," SeaWorld's vice president of zoological operations Al Garver described the fallen animal.
"We're proud to have been a part of her life and to know that she inspired people from around the world to want to protect polar bears in the wild."
Szenja's body will undergo necropsy, but SeaWorld officials said it could take several weeks before the results come out.
Remain, meanwhile, said Szenja's death should be a cause for alarm for SeaWorld to change its breeding policies.
"This should be a wake-up call to SeaWorld: stop breeding and shipping animals around, close the animal exhibits, and retire the animals to sanctuaries. Until it does, this ship will keep sinking," he said.
Polar bears usually have a lifespan of 18 years in the wild, while those in captivity live from 20 to 30 years.