(Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore Facebook)
Inuka as a cub with his mother, Sheba. (Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore Facebook)
When the news of Inuka’s deteriorating health became public, many Singaporeans were undeniably devastated. Born on 26 December 1990, Inuka is Singapore’s resident polar bear and the first to be born in the tropics. Even though his parents--Sheba and Nanook--had come from cold climate countries, Inuka is very well adjusted to Singapore’s climate and has become one of the highlights of the Singapore Zoo. Inuka is well loved for this mischievous antics which includes popping up to surprise visitors standing at the glass of his enclosure, flipping his fruitsicles (fruits frozen in blocks of ice) and inventing his own games by stacking tyres or lining them up in parallel lines.
A healthier Inuka in 2015, a contrast to his lethargic state today. (Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore Facebook)
At a whopping 27 years, Inuka is well past the average lifespan of a polar bear both in the wild (15-18 years) and in captivity (25 years). Due to his seniority, Inuka has been afflicted with several age-related illnesses such as arthritis, dental issues and occasional ear infections. He has been put under a special senior animal care programme, reserved for geriatric animals. On top of that, he gets his eyes, ears, nose and teeth checked by keepers daily and has been on long-term glucosamine and anti-inflammatory medication for his arthritis.
Inuka lounging around his habitat. (Photo credit: @shanngoh)
Despite the management of his arthritis, dental problems and ear infections, keepers at the Singapore Zoo noticed that Inuka was becoming more lethargic and inactive over the past three months. For a bear who loves water, he hardly swam and didn’t seem to be interested in his daily enrichment activities which included traffic cones, boomer balls and his favourite food embedded in ice blocks. Inuka would also prefer to rest instead of interacting with his keepers. During his check-up on 3 April this year, results showed that he had a stiffer gait which resulted in abrasions on his paws and age-related general muscle atrophy.
23 April (Mon) will be the last day visitors will be allowed to see him as he gets ready for his check-up on 25 April (Wed). The check up--which includes blood work, radiography, ear, eye and general physical examinations--would be to assess if his medications have been helping him. If it has, the Singapore Zoo will look to prolonging his treatment regime and keeping him in the most comfortable condition. However, if the results show that his health is declining despite treatment, they will have to let him go.
Well wishes and letters can be found at Inuka’s enclosure. (Photo credit: @shanngoh)
Regardless of the results that will come out on Wednesday, Inuka will always be a very loved icon. There has been an outpouring of support by the public with visitors leaving get well soon letters and well wishes for the elderly polar bear.
In 2006, the Singapore Zoo announced that they would not bring in another polar bear and instead focus on featuring tropical animals and endangered Southeast Asian species.