Yesterday (25 Apr), Singapore said goodbye to our last polar bear.
It was a sad affair, worthy of a great bear that made many Singaporean kids happy during their childhood.
Here are 8 facts about Inuka for us to remember him by.
1. He was the first bear to be born in the tropics
We all know that polar bears exist in the wild in the Arctic. Inuka, however, was born in the tropics. In Singapore to be exact.
His parents are Nanook, which was brought in from Canada’s Winnipeg Zoo and Sheba, which was brought in from Germany’s Cologne Zoo.
They were brought in to Singapore in 1978 and Inuka was born in 1990 as a 350-gram male cub. Guess he’s older than some of you.
2. He could have been named Artos, like Legendary Pokemon
When the baby polar bear was born, a nationwide naming contest for him was held.
Out of the thousands of entry including names like Artos and Shardik, Inuka was selected for him.
It means Silent Stalker in Inuit.
At three months old, Singaporeans finally caught sight of him in his first public appearance with his mama, Sheba.
Since his birth, he was adopted by SPH Foundation. SPH Foundation together with the Wildlife Reserves of Singapore (WRS) organise his birthday bash every year.
3. He lived for 27 years, but his momma lived even longer
At 27 years old (28 this December), Inuka is considered an old man in bear terms.
Wild polar bears can live for 20-30 years, but a majority of them won’t survive past 18 years. Male polar bears in captivity, meanwhile, typically live until 25 years old.
But here’s something even more interesting.
His mother, Sheba, lived until the age of 35 before she passed away in Nov 2012.
4. He was actually scheduled to transfer out after his mother dies
Back in 2006, the Wildlife Reserves of Singapore (WRS) made Inuka available for transfer to other zoos when his mother, Sheba, passed on.
Back then, the Animals Research, Conservation and Education (ACRES) society were pressuring WRS about using animals in live shows for visitors.
They claimed that Inuka and his mother showed “physical and behavioural signs” of distress.
However, WRS said that the move was in line with their objective of becoming a rainforest zoo, and not due to external pressure.
However, it was decided in 2007 that Inuka will not be moved. Having been born in Singapore and living here for his entire life would’ve acclimatised the bear to our tropical weather.
In addition, moving Inuka especially after the death of his mother might be too distressing for the poor bear.
5. Inuka isn’t just a local star; he has international fans too
I’ll bet that when you first visit Inuka in your childhood, you didn’t know he’s an international star, right?
Visitors came to Singapore from different countries just to catch his majestic self in action.
Indian national Shashikant Jain brought his 9-year-old daughter to the zoo on their first trip to SIngapore. He said that he had heard stories from friends about Singapore’s famous polar bear.
Another foreign visitor said that visiting Inuka is one of the key highlights for her three children in their growing up years.
6. Inuka is a smart and cheeky bugger
Inuka is known to play tricks on his keepers, including spitting out medication when they’re not watching and keeping his toothbrush out of their reach.
When they reach for it, he’ll move the item even further.
His favourite is frozen salmon and he is a picky eater.
When he’s lazy and doesn’t want to get into the water, he’ll tap the ground and indicate that the keepers should throw fish at the cliff instead of into the pool.
Unlike most animals, Inuka is comfortable with everybody, even strangers. When there’s a huge crowd, he would lie down and happily crowd-watch.
7. Inuka has been suffering from age-related ailments since 5 years ago
Last year, his traditional ice cake was switched to an agar-agar version so that it’ll be easier on his teeth.
Just like humans, bears will suffer from age-related ailments as they grow older.
And Inuka isn’t spared this fate.
Since 5 years ago, he has been experiencing arthritis, dental issues and occasional ear infections.
A medical checkup was conducted on 3 Apr 2018 and it was found that he was in declining health.
His limbs could no longer support his weight so he had to drag his legs when he walked.
This led to ulcers on his paw pads and a deep infection between his toes.
He also had a wound on his lower abdomen which is likely to be caused by “urine burns from incontinence and recurring urinary tract infections”.
8. WRS decided to put him to sleep on 25 Apr
On 25 Apr 2018, Inuka closed its eyes for the last time surrounded by past and present keepers.
He was put under anaesthesia and the zoo made the “difficult decision” not to wake him up.
They found that the open wounds on his body were not healing up despite additional treatment over the past few weeks.
Judging that his discomfort will only be worsened as he lived longer, they decided to let him go.
His body will be sent for a full autopsy and parts of his body will be preserved for educational purposes.
His enclosure might be turned into a sea lion exhibit.
He will be the last polar bear Singapore will ever see. WRS has said that they will not be bringing polar bears into Singapore anymore.
Goodbye, Inuka. May you be happy wherever you go.
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