‘Goodbye, Inuka’: Singapore’s last polar bear put to sleep after showing no improvements in its deteriorating health

Inuka, the world’s first polar bear born in the tropics, was put down on April 25 after health examinations showed no signs of improvement in its declining health.
Facebook/ Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Singapore’s beloved and last remaining polar bear Inuka has finally left the world peacefully.

On Wednesday (Apr 25), Inuka was euthanised after check-ups in the past three weeks showed no improvements in its deteriorating health.

According to previous media reports, the Singapore Zoo said the move to put down the 27-year-old polar bear was based on “humane and welfare grounds.”

Inuka was first put into a “deep sleep” under anaesthesia on Wednesday morning and a decision was made to not revive it, said Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, deputy CEO and chief life sciences officer of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

He said in an April 25 statement: “Our decision to let Inuka go was made with the knowledge that his health issues have seriously impacted his welfare.”

“As much as we would like to keep Inuka with us for as long as possible, our ultimate responsibility is his welfare. Beyond the point where we can ensure a good quality of life for Inuka, the greater kindness would be to relieve him from prolonged suffering.”

In an earlier statement on Apr 12, WRS said a health examination on Apr 3 revealed that the polar bear’s health was declining markedly, with noticeable dips in its activity levels in the previous three months.

Inuka suffered from arthritis, dental issues, occasional ear infections and more recently abnormal shuffling gait which led to abrasions on its paw pads.

It also showed signs of age-related general muscle atrophy as well as wounds on its lower abdomen, possibly caused by urine burns from incontinence and recurring urinary tract infections, said WRS.

In addition to the long-term glucosamine and anti-inflammatory treatment for arthritis, intensive treatment had been administered in response to Inuka’s health decline.

An agreement was made between the zoo’s vets and the care team to not allow the polar bear to be revived from anaesthesia should the intensive treatments fail to alleviate its suffering.

The zoo will conduct a full autopsy on Inuka and considers preserving parts of it for educational purposes instead of a burial.

Nonetheless, 27 years of life is a significant achievement for the world’s first polar bear born in the tropics on Dec 26, 1990.

Inuka had surpassed the average lifespan of wild polar bears which typically live 15 to 18 years and polar bears under human care that usually live 25 years. In human years, it would have been akin to a man in his 70s.

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) had supported Inuka’s upkeep since birth and the organisation’s charity arm SPH Foundation sponsored its adoption in 2007.

“We would like to thank the many people who showed their love and concern for Inuka, especially this past month,” said Mohan Ponichamy, deputy head keeper of Singapore Zoo.

“We will miss our Inuka dearly and it will take some time to get used to not seeing him readily waiting to greet us every morning.”

In a Facebook post on the same day Inuka was put down, WRS wrote: “With a heavy heart, we bade farewell to our beloved senior polar bear Inuka this morning. Farewell Inuka, you will always live in our memories.”

The post has received over 4,100 reactions, 2,600 shares and 300 comments at the time of writing.

Many Facebook users sent their heartfelt goodbyes to the adored polar bear and praised the care team for their efforts.