SINGAPORE: The Singapore Zoo bade farewell to Inuka the polar bear on Wednesday morning (April 25), following a decision to put him down humanely.
The decision was made after a second medical examination revealed that despite intensive medical care and treatment, the bear's health condition and quality of life had not improved significantly.
A joint decision was then made by a team of vets and keepers not to revive Inuka from anaesthesia on humane and welfare grounds.
A preliminary medical examination on April 3 had revealed that the bear was in declining health.
On top of existing health conditions including arthritis, dental issues and occasional ear infections, Inuka was found to have had additional age-related problems of muscle atrophy and open sores on his paw pads, leading to an abnormal shuffling gait.
"Our decision to let Inuka go was made with the knowledge that his health issues have seriously impacted his welfare," said Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Wildlife Reserves Singapore's (WRS) deputy chief executive officer and chief life sciences officer. 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," he added.
At 27 years old, Inuka surpassed the average life expectancy of polar bears, which typically live 15 to 18 years in the wild and 25 years under human care. Inuka would have been well into his 70s in human years.
Said Mohan Ponichamy, deputy head keeper at the Singapore Zoo: "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."
Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has supported Inuka since its birth. SPH Foundation, the charity arm of SPH, took over the adoption of the bear from 2007.
Inuka was the first polar bear to be born in the tropics on December 26, 1990. His name is Inuit for "Silent Stalker". The name was chosen through a nationwide naming contest, which received over 10,000 entries.
He was born to much fanfare after his parents – Nanook and Sheba – were brought to Singapore in 1978. A third bear, Anana, joined Inuka's parents at the Singapore Zoo soon after.
Inuka's father, Nanook, died in 1995 at the age of 18, while his mother, Sheba, died in 2012 at the age of 35, the second-oldest polar bear in the world then. Anana, a female polar bear, died in 1999.
WRS has reaffirmed that Inuka will be Singapore's last polar bear. This comes after the zoo announced in 2006 that it would not bring any more polar bears to Singapore, following discussions with its Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network