Happy Birthday Inuka: Singapore Zoo's polar bear celebrates 27th birthday

Happy Birthday Inuka
A screen grab from video Facebook/Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Singapore zoo is immersed in a festive atmosphere as officials and zoo keepers celebrated the birthday of locally born polar bear Inuka on Tuesday. Inuka was born on 26 December 1990 and will turn 26 this year, which is equivalent to seventies in comparison to humans.

The septuagenarian polar bear was treated with a birthday cake made from agar-agar topped with a salmon head. Nearly 400 visitors were there to watch Inuka celebrating the birthday with his first ever cake made from agar-agar, which is derived from seaweed and is commonly found in Asian desserts. The polar bear's previous birthday cakes were comprised of an ice base and various toppings.

"This year's cake was made from agar-agar to make it easier on Inuka's teeth," Dr. Cheng Wen-Haur, deputy CEO and chief life sciences officer for Wildlife Reserves Singapore told Channel NewsAsia.

Inuka is going through regular checkups after he was diagnosed with arthritis and dental issues. He is currently on a senior animal care programme that helps to manage his arthritis. Other treatments include weekly health checks, special diets and close observations, as well as an assessment carried out daily to determine Inuka's quality of life.

"For his birthday cake we have to make it very special, taking into account he's already on a senior diet, made from low sugar and very high quality protein and fat, and that is in the salmon. Salmon also happens to be one of his favourite (foods)," Dr. Cheng added.

The locally born polar bear has surpassed the 25-year average lifespan of a typical polar bear under human care. At present Inuka weighs 513kg and measures 2.5m from nose to tail.

Dr. Cheng said that Inuka will be the last polar bear to be kept in the Singapore Zoo for a "long, long time". He added: "Our policy right now is to concentrate on animals that we can create an environment that is as close to an environment where they're found naturally."

"So to bring another polar bear we need to create an artificial environment ... and the carbon footprint of creating such an environment for him in Singapore will be very, very high and it would not be in line with the conservation messages that we want to communicate," said Dr. Cheng.

However, Inuka's condition remains stable and his carers are optimistic. "We're monitoring his quality of life very closely, and with the way he tackled his birthday cake just now, he has a very hearty appetite and a good will to go on living," Dr Cheng added.

This article was first published on December 26, 2017