Singapore Zoo's 27-year-old polar bear Inuka may be put down

Singapore Zoo's 27-year-old polar bear Inuka may be put down
PHOTO: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Singapore - An elderly polar bear at Singapore zoo, one of the site's most beloved animals, may be put down after its health deteriorated markedly, the zoo operator said Thursday.

Inuka, the first polar bear born in the tropics, has reached the grand old age of 27 - well into his 70s in human years and two years older than the average lifespan of the creatures in captivity.

Zoo operator Wildlife Reserves Singapore said an April 3 examination revealed that the health of Inuka, who has been receiving treatment for arthritis for some time, had declined markedly.

The bear's activity levels have fallen over the past three months and he now prefers resting over interacting with his keepers, a statement said.

Singapore Zoo staff pay tribute to polar bear Inuka

  • Open gallery

    Out of the many animals, big and small, that Mr Mohan Ponichamy has cared for, Inuka was by far the most famous and loved by Singaporeans, said the Wildlife Reserves Singapore deputy head keeper at a tribute to the bear.

  • Open gallery

    "For the first time... We didn't walk into the den this morning to see a cheery Inuka greeting us. The space was empty," he said.

  • Open gallery

    The private tribute ceremony for Inuka, the first and only polar bear to be born in Singapore, was held on Thursday morning (April 26) at the Frozen Tundra in the Singapore Zoo, where more than 400 zoo staff and guests paid their last respects.

  • Open gallery

    In his tribute, Mr Ponichamy spoke of the bear's fun-loving personality. He said Inuka, was extremely "kaypoh", much like his fellow countrymen.

  • Open gallery

    "I don't see a polar bear," he said. "I see a Singaporean."

  • Open gallery

    Finally, a minute of applause was held as a tribute to the bear.

  • Open gallery

    The Singapore Zoo bade a sad farewell on Wedneday (April 25) to one of its most well-loved animals, polar bear Inuka. Inuka died surrounded by his current and former keepers.

  • Open gallery

    The zoo vets and his care team agreed to not revive him from anesthesia on humane and welfare grounds following a second health examination on Wednesday (April 25).

  • Open gallery

    The 27-year-old was put down on 'humane and welfare grounds'.

  • Open gallery

    Deputy CEO and Chief Life Sciences Dr Cheng Wen-Haur (in green) examines Inuka’s lower abdomen on April 25, 2018.

  • Open gallery

    Inuka was known as the world’s first polar bear born in the tropics, on December 27, 1990.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    The health of the Zoo’s golden resident had declined markedly in the past three months.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    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 15-18 years, said WRS.

  • Open gallery

    Its upkeep since birth was supported by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). SPH Foundation, the charity arm of SPH, took over the adoption from 2007.

  • Open gallery

    Inkua as a cub.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    Inuka, the first polar bear born in the tropics, has reached the grand old age of 27 - well into his 70s in human years and two years older than the average lifespan of the creatures in captivity.

  • Open gallery

    Wildlife Reserves Singapore said an April 3 examination revealed that the health of Inuka, who has been receiving treatment for arthritis for some time, had declined markedly.

  • Open gallery

    The bear's activity levels have fallen over the past three months and he now prefers resting over interacting with his keepers, a statement said.

  • Open gallery

    Inuka - who was born at the zoo, which describes him as their "most prominent senior resident" - had been popular with visitors due to his playful antics in his pool enclosure.

  • Open gallery

    But he has now cut back on swimming, his walking is stiffer, and he is less interested in his daily playing sessions involving traffic cones, balls and ice blocks embedded with his favourite food, the zoo said.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    Veterinarians have ramped up the bear's daily care regimen and are administering medication, and a second health check will take place in late April.

  • Open gallery

    "If results indicate that Inuka's welfare is not improving with these intensive treatments,

  • Open gallery

    his care team may have to make the very difficult decision not to allow him to recover from anaesthesia on humane and welfare grounds," said the statement.

  • Open gallery

    Inuka's annual birthday celebration is one of the high points for visitors in the zoo's calendar,

  • Open gallery

    and last year he celebrated with a special jelly and salmon cake.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

Inuka - who was born at the zoo, and whose name means "Silent Stalker" in Inuit - had been popular with visitors due to his playful antics in his pool enclosure.

But he has now cut back on swimming, his walking is stiffer, and he is less interested in his daily playing sessions involving traffic cones, balls and ice blocks embedded with his favourite food, the zoo said.

Veterinarians have ramped up the bear's daily care regimen and are administering medication, and a second health check will take place in late April.

"If results indicate that Inuka's welfare is not improving with these intensive treatments, his care team may have to make the very difficult decision not to allow him to recover from anaesthesia on humane and welfare grounds," said the statement.

Inuka's annual birthday celebration is one of the high points for visitors in the zoo's calendar, and last year he celebrated with a special jelly and salmon cake.

As few as 22,000 polar bears are thought to remain in the wild, according to environmental group World Wildlife Fund, Protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies them as vulnerable.

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.