'Bye Bye Inuka;' Singapore's last polar bear put into deep sleep considering his declining health

Happy Birthday Inuka
Singapore's last polar bear Inuka Facebook/Wildlife Reserves Singapore

The 27-year-old Singapore's last polar bear, Inuka, has been put into a deep sleep on humane grounds after the veterinary team found that after receiving intensive treatment, the male bear's health has not improved yet.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, deputy CEO and Chief Life Sciences Officer of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) said that the bear, whose parents Nanook and Sheba including another one called Anana came to the south-east Asian country in 1978.

Aged and ill Inuka was given anaesthesia on Wednesday, at around 7 am and not allow him to wake up on humane and welfare grounds. He said that further medication and treatment would make his condition worse.

In a statement, WRS, which manages the majority of zoos in the country, has said that the second medical examination has revealed that the open injuries on the paws and wounds on the abdomen of the resident of Singapore zoo, failed to improve despite additional treatment over the past three weeks.

They also stated that those wounds, which were quite deep, would have caused pain and discomfort to Inuka and would be aggravated as he has arthritis issues. It was clear that Inuka's health and the welfare state was compromised and the responsible course of action was not to prolong his suffering.

Reports said that the deputy head keeper and one of Inuka's primary caregivers Mohan Ponichamy said that the zookeepers spent the entire night with their beloved bear to ensure that Inuka was comfortable.

He also said that the isolation was required for Inuka to start the preparations for the anaesthesia, so the keepers spent the entire day with Inuka and they hand-fed him with water also. Mohan said that he was responsive throughout and was able to follow signals.

Even though it is a sad moment for all the caregivers as well as the vets, Cheng said that they bade a farewell to Inuka, who was born and lived in the country for more than two decades. He believes that this decision was perfect for Inuka's deteriorating health.

The zoo said that after an autopsy, which will be done to understand his medical condition, the authorities will preserve Inuka's body for educational purpose. On Thursday, April 26, a private memorial service will be held.

However, Cheng said that it is not the zoo's policy to decide whether Inuka will live more or not. He said when an animal is old and could not have the ability to survive by hunting other animals, they could go hungry and that could last for weeks and months before they die. But, the authority will never allow that. The vets take proper care of such animals that could actually try to treat the conditions over a period of time.

Inuka was born in 1990 at the 64-acre Singapore Zoo on December 26. Even though he is 27 now, the age is old enough and comparable with the 70s in humans.

The World Wildlife Forum (WWF) has already enlisted the name of the polar bear species in the list of 'Vulnerable' animals. Currently, there are 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears in the entire world.

The marine mammals spend most of their lives on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. This animal is at the top of the food chain and plays an important role in the overall health of the marine environment. Polar bears are an important indicator species to study the impact of climate change.

This article was first published on April 26, 2018