Singapore Zoo polar bear Inuka, 27, suffering from stiffer gait, poor health in old age

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

The Singapore zoo announced on Thursday that the 27-year-old polar bear, Inuka, who was born in the tropics, is suffering from a stiffer gait in his hind, quoting medial examination of the zoo's first polar bear.

Inuka's age-related muscle atrophy is clear but the bear faced abrasions on his paw pads. It also faced occasional ear infections, arthritis and dental issues but these ailments are already treated with medication, said zoo officials.

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 zoo officials said that they noticed a huge decline in Inuka's daily activities. Instead of interacting with the keepers, the bear now prefers to take rest most of the time. The water-loving male bear, who is known for his playful activities in the pool, has now started to skip his swimming session, including a dip in the activities, such as those involving traffic cones and ice blocks filled with his favourite food, revealed the zoo authorities.

The zoo veterinarians have suggested for an intensive treatment of his feet and started providing Inuka with painkillers and antibiotics. He is also taking medication for the long-term glucosamine and anti-inflammatory issues, they said.

The zoo, which is located at 80 Mandai Lake Road, stated that the veterinary team has given guarded prognosis and are monitoring the polar bear on a daily basis. Even his keepers are a vigil on Inuka's health and constantly reviewing the polar bear's quality of life. The zoo officials said that Inuka's next medical examination will be take place later in April.

If the results of the tests show that Inuka's welfare is not improving with these intensive treatments, then the care team has to take the difficult decision to not allow him to recover from anaesthesia on humane and welfare grounds. Seeing his declining condition, daily interaction sessions have already been suspended.

In 1978, polar bears first arrived in the region and Inuka's parents Nanook and Sheba, including another one called Anana, used to be the permanent residents of the same zoo where Inuka is living now.

Inuka could be the last polar bear of the zoo, as the officials announced in 2006 that they will not bring any more polar bears. He is adopted by the Singapore Press Holdings Foundation Limited aka SPH Foundation, which is charity institution.

Polar bears
Polar bears Reuters

Usually, polar bears live beyond 25 years and male bears have a life expectancy of 15 to 18 years. The oldest wild bear on record died at age 32, whereas the oldest in captivity was a female bear that died in 1991, aged 43.

As per the data provided by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears are living on the earth. The organization stated that by 2040, scientists predicted that when all the other large areas of summer ice are gone, only a fringe of ice will remain in Northern Greenland and Northeast Canada, making this species 'Vulnerable' and of 'Special Concern', respectively, in these two regions.

WWF stated that a projection of sea ice in the archipelago shows that it is facing significant ice loss in the coming decades, with potentially serious consequences for polar bears. The global polar bear numbers are projected to decline by 30% by 2050.