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Singapore’s last polar bear, Inuka, in declining health

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s last polar bear, Inuka, is dying.

Singapore’s last polar bear, Inuka, in declining health

Inuka, the first polar bear to be born in the tropics, seen at the Singapore Zoo on Thursday (April 12). Its health is declining markedly, the Singapore Zoo said in a statement.

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s last polar bear, Inuka, is dying.

In a statement released on Thursday (April 12), the Singapore Zoo said the health of the 27-year-old polar bear is declining markedly.

His veterinary care team has issued this “guarded prognosis” following a health examination last Tuesday, and are monitoring him daily.

A second health examination will be scheduled in late April. Should results indicate that his welfare fails to improve despite intensive treatments, his care team may have to make the “very difficult decision to not allow him to recover from anaesthesia on humane and welfare grounds”.

Inuka, the first polar bear born in the tropics, suffers from arthritis, dental issues and occasional ear infections.

But since the start of the year, his activity levels have dipped noticeably. The zoo said Inuka now prefers to rest, instead of participating in daily interaction sessions with his keepers.

“The water-loving bear has reduced his swimming sessions significantly, and appears to be less interested in his daily enrichment activity involving a variety of devices such as traffic cones, boomer balls and ice blocks embedded with his favourite food,” the statement added.

Age-related general muscle atrophy is also clearly evident in the bear, which has started to exhibit a stiffer gait, especially on his hind limbs.

The abnormal shuffling gait has resulted in abrasions on his paw pads, which vet are treating with specific painkillers and antibiotics added to his daily care regime, on top long-term glucosamine and anti-inflammatory treatment for his arthritis.

Inuka’s keepers are closely monitoring his welfare and reviewing his quality of life.

To allow him to enjoy his time as he pleases, the Zoo said daily polar bear interaction sessions have been suspended.

At 27 years old, Inuka is well into his 70s in human years, and has surpassed the 25-year average lifespan of polar bears under human care.

The average life expectancy of male polar bears in the wild is between 15 and 18 years.

Born on Dec 26, 1990, in the Singapore Zoo, Inuka is the forth polar bear to call the zoo home, and will be the last.

The zoo had previously announced that polar bears will no longer be part of its exhibits, following discussions with its Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee in 2006.

“This is in line with the Zoo’s stronger focus on featuring tropical wildlife and threatened South-east Asian species in need of ex-situ management programmes.”

First brought into Singapore in 1978, Inuka’s parents, Nanook and Sheba, were the first two polar bears to call the zoo home, followed by a third bear, Anana.

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