The last farewell: Past and present caregivers surround Inuka the polar bear in his final moments

The last farewell: Past and present caregivers surround Inuka the polar bear in his final moments

Past and present caregivers gathered for Inuka's final health check before the polar bear was put down on Wednesday (Apr 25), photos released by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) showed.

SINGAPORE: Past and present caregivers gathered for Inuka's final health check before the polar bear was put down on Wednesday (Apr 25), photos released by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) showed. 

The 27-year-old male polar bear, the first to be born in the tropics, was put down in the morning at Singapore Zoo due to his deteriorating health. 

In one of the photos, Inuka's family of caregivers appeared sombre as they gathered around to watch Inuka receive the final injection that was administered by Dr Abraham Mathew, the assistant director of veterinary services.

In another photo, Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, the chief life sciences officer and deputy CEO of WRS, was seen examining Inuka's lower abdomen for the last time. The final examination was conducted alongside Dr Mathew and Mr Mohan Ponichamy, the deputy head keeper and one of Inuka's caregivers. 

Final health check on Inuka the polar bear 2
Dr Cheng Wen-Haur (centre), chief life sciences officer and deputy CEO of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, examining Inuka's lower abdomen. (Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore)

A third photo showed a caregiver placing her hands on one of Inuka's paws as a sign of goodbye. 

Hands on Inuka's paws
A caregiver placing her hands on Inuka's paw as a sign of goodbye. (Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore)

For the past five years, Inuka had been suffering from age-related ailments including arthritis, dental issues and occasional ear infections. A health check on Apr 3 showed that his health was declining even further.

Inuka's ailing limbs could no longer support his weight. This caused him to drag his feet, leading to ulcers on his paw pads and a deep infection between his toes. 

He also had a wound on his lower abdomen, which was likely due to urinary incontinence and recurring urinary tract infections, WRS said. 

“Today’s medical examination revealed that the open wounds on his paws and abdomen had not significantly improved despite additional treatment over the last three weeks. These wounds, which were quite deep, would have caused pain and discomfort to Inuka, and would only be aggravated as his arthritis worsened,” WRS said in a statement.

At a press conference, Dr Cheng said: "From his point of view, he was in deep sleep, surrounded by all his keepers who care deeply about him. Having been born and lived in Singapore for the past 27 years where a whole generation of Singaporeans have grown up with him, we bade him farewell. It is a very sad moment for us ... but I think we have done the right thing by him and he is no longer suffering."

Inuka had outlived the lifespan of a wild male polar bear, which is typically between 15 and 18 years, WRS said. 

A private memorial will take place on Thursday followed by an autopsy to fully understand Inuka's condition. WRS also said that his body parts may be preserved for educational purposes. 

Meanwhile, Inuka's exhibit will undergo refurbishment and redesign in the next few months. It will then be used to house sea lions. 

Source: CNA/na

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