The only Singapore-born polar bear is now in ‘declining health’ – here’s a look back at how Inuka captured hearts
A health exam later this month will decide if Inuka should continue treatment or if his care team must make the decision to put him to sleep
By Jessica Lin
The only polar bear to have been born in the tropics could be put to sleep as early as the end of April, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) says.
Born at the Singapore Zoo to the zoo’s first polar bears Nanook and Sheba, Inuka turned 27 in December last year.
According to WRS, Inuka would be “well into his 70s” in human years, and has surpassed the 25-year average lifespan of polar bears under human care. Polar bears in the wild have a life expectancy of between 15-18 years.
WRS said in a statement that a health examination on April 3 revealed that the polar bear’s health “is declining markedly”.
Although he is closely monitored by vets and keepers, old age has meant that Inuka’s activity levels are dipping.
Once known for splashing around in his pool, Inuka now prefers resting to interacting with keepers, and has reduced his swimming sessions significantly, WRS said.
The statement added that Inuka is now “less interested in his daily enrichment activity involving a variety of devices such as traffic cones, boomer balls and ice blocks embedded with his favourite food”.
Inuka had already been suffering from arthritis, dental issues and occasional ear infections, which are being managed and treated.
But now, Inuka also exhibits a stiffer gait, particularly noticeable in his hind limbs, WRS said.
“This abnormal shuffling gait has resulted in abrasions on his paw pads. Additionally, age-related general muscle atrophy is clearly evident,” the organisation said.
As a result, his daily care has been intensified and he has been put on painkillers and antibiotics to further alleviate his symptoms.
“His keepers are closely monitoring his welfare, and his quality of life assessment is under constant review,” WRS said.
“If results indicate that Inuka’s welfare is not improving with these intensive treatments, his care team may have to make the very difficult decision to not allow him to recover from anaesthesia on humane and welfare grounds,” WRS said.
While daily polar bear interaction sessions have been suspended, visitors to the Singapore Zoo will still be able to spot the bear at the Frozen Tundra enclosure for now.
Sponsored by Singapore Press Holdings’ charity arm, SPH Foundation, Inuka could be the last polar bear to live in the tropical zoo.
In 2006, the zoo said it would not bring any more polar bears to Singapore following discussions with its Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee.
Here’s a look back at the life of Singapore’s very own polar bear Inuka.
Since 1978, there have been four polar bears at the Singapore Zoo, including Inuka, Nanook, Sheba, and another polar bear named Anana.
In this photo, mother bear Sheba swims with her cub Inuka, who is just under a year old. Sheba died on November 15, 2012, at the age of 35.
Inuka celebrated his 10th birthday at the Singapore Zoo with two huge ice sculptures filled with fruits, vegetables and a salmon each.
The bear got to savour some of his favourite treats, including a birthday cake made of salmon, minced beef and peanut butter “icing”.