Singapore Zoo's polar bear Inuka is dying

This article is more than 12 months old

For the past five years, polytechnic lecturer Anita Ryanto has gone to the Singapore Zoo almost every month to paint watercolour illustrations of the zoo's iconic polar bear, Inuka.

Her visit yesterday, however, felt a little different.

"I read in the news in my office that he was very sick this morning and was really sad, so I decided that I must come and sketch him today," said the 47-year-old lecturer with Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of InfoComm Technology.

The Singapore Zoo said yesterday the 27-year old polar bear, the first to be born in the tropics, is in a state of declining health.

A health examination by a veterinary care team on April 3 found Inuka had a stiffer gait, particularly noticeable in his hind limbs, on top of existing health problems of arthritis, dental issues and occasional ear infections.

The abnormal shuffling gait has caused abrasions on his paw pads, while age-related muscle atrophy is evident, said the zoo.

As a result, veterinarians have included intensive treatment for his feet in his daily care regime. Inuka has also been started on painkillers and antibiotics to further alleviate his symptoms.

In the meantime, daily scheduled interaction sessions with Inuka have been suspended to allow him to "enjoy his time as he pleases".

Inuka, who is adopted by SPH Foundation, is scheduled to undergo a second health examination in late April.

"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," the zoo added.

Inuka may be Singapore's last polar bear, in light of the zoo's announcement in 2006 that it would no longer bring polar bears to an equatorial climate.