America’s oldest captive polar bear Berlin is euthanized at Kansas City Zoo aged 33

America’s oldest captive polar bear Berlin is euthanized ‘surrounded by her caregivers’ at Kansas City Zoo after staff discovered she was suffering from incurable renal failure

  • Berlin got her name as she was born one month after the fall of the Berlin Wall
  • The bear lived at Kansas City Zoo for over a decade and has now died aged 33 
  • She was treated for systemic hypertension and was diagnosed with renal failure 

America’s oldest polar bear ‘Berlin‘ has been euthanized at Kansas City Zoo after staff discovered she was suffering from incurable renal failure. 

Berlin was born on December 11, 1989 in Cincinnati Zoo – a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall – which led to her unusual name. 

The 33-year-old bear was the oldest in captivity in the US, and possibly the whole of North America, according to Kansas City Zoo. 

She had been treated for systemic hypertension and was later diagnosed with renal failure. 

Berlin was given her name because she was born one month after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989

Berlin was given her name because she was born one month after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989

America's oldest polar bear 'Berlin' has been euthanized at Kansas City Zoo after staff discovered she was suffering from incurable renal failure (pictured at Como Zoo in 2012)

America’s oldest polar bear ‘Berlin’ has been euthanized at Kansas City Zoo after staff discovered she was suffering from incurable renal failure (pictured at Como Zoo in 2012)

Berlin was euthanized after treatment options were ‘exhausted’, the zoo announced on Thursday afternoon, after the decision was made on Wednesday.  

‘Berlin was a beloved ambassador for her species and helped contribute to research that has benefited the wild polar bear population,’ the zoo said in a news release. 

‘Her animal care specialists commended her big personality and described her as “smart and sassy” and say she gave all of her caregivers “a run for their money!” 

‘Unfortunately, Berlin’s health had significantly declined yesterday morning, and it was determined there were no other additional medical options to improve her condition. She was euthanized surrounded by her caregivers.

‘Berlin will be dearly missed by her Zoo family, including staff, volunteers, and guests.’ 

Berlin went to the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minnesota, when she was only a year old. 

There, she managed to temporarily escape her enclosure when her habitat flooded in 2012, when rising water levels allowed her to swim up onto a rock.

Adele Wellens posted on Twitter to remember visiting Berlin in the Zoo with a friend

Adele Wellens posted on Twitter to remember visiting Berlin in the Zoo with a friend

The 33-year-old bear was the oldest in captivity in the US, and possibly the whole of North America, according to Kansas City Zoo

The 33-year-old bear was the oldest in captivity in the US, and possibly the whole of North America, according to Kansas City Zoo

In 2012 Berlin managed to escape her enclosure after it became flooded and she swam onto a rock

In 2012 Berlin managed to escape her enclosure after it became flooded and she swam onto a rock

She was described as 'smart and sassy' by Kansas City Zoo, reportedly giving her caregivers a 'run for their money'

She was described as ‘smart and sassy’ by Kansas City Zoo, reportedly giving her caregivers a ‘run for their money’

Lizzy Larson said Berlin loved every toy she was given and was good at solving puzzles

Lizzy Larson said Berlin loved every toy she was given and was good at solving puzzles

Polar Bears in accredited zoos have a life expectancy of 23.4 years according to the Kansas City Zoo. Pictured: Berlin at Lake Superior Zoo

Polar Bears in accredited zoos have a life expectancy of 23.4 years according to the Kansas City Zoo. Pictured: Berlin at Lake Superior Zoo

Lake Superior Zoo posted on Facebook, remembering Berlin’s close bond with fellow polar bear Bubba. 

The zoo said: ‘The two of them charmed locals and tourists alike with their playful nature and beauty. 

‘Many residents of the Twin Ports fondly remember visiting them at the zoo.’ 

Lizzy Larson cared for Berlin at the zoo for three years. She said: ‘The thing that I will remember most about Berlin was how incredibly smart she was. Everything Berlin did had a purpose.

‘She could solve every puzzle we gave her and I never found a toy she didn’t like! I will fondly remember how enthusiastically she would jump into her pool to play. 

‘I know that she has touched countless hearts in her 33 years of life. We will all be mourning her loss.’ 

People took to social media to share their memories of visiting Berlin at the zoo. 

Adele Wellens shared a picture of herself looking at the Bear and said: ‘The summer I moved to Duluth I first visited a friend in Kansas. We went to this zoo and saw this polar bear. 

‘I had no idea until today that she was the same polar bear who escaped the @lakesuperiorzoo during the 2012 flood. RIP Berlin. (Pic currently hanging on my wall at home.’ 

Berlin then stayed at Como Zoo before being moved to Kansas City Zoo in 2012, where she spent the last decade of her life. 

She never had cubs of her own but at Como Zoo she was introduced to six-year-old  Nikita in the hope they would add to the small population of polar bears in US zoos. 

Nikita was eventually sent to North Carolina, to be partnered with a young female polar bear.  

After moving to Kansas Zoo, Berlin became renowned for her witty and playful nature. Lake Superior Zoo’s tribute said she was given a melon and appeared to try to plant the seeds and watch over her plants. 

The beloved bear’s death was announced on Thursday – and she was reportedly surrounded by her caregivers. 

Polar Bears in accredited zoos have a life expectancy of 23.4 years according to the Kansas City Zoo. 

In the wild they live for an average of between 15 and 18 years, according to Polar Bears International. 

Biologists estimate there are between 20,000 and 30,000 polar bears worldwide. Freedom for Animals says 300 of these are housed in zoos. 

The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group lists the polar bear as a vulnerable species and cites sea ice loss from climate change as the biggest threat to their survival. 

In June, however, researchers from the University of Washington discovered a new population of polar bears thriving in the ice-free sea in Southeast Greenland.  

Berlin was euthanized after treatment options were 'exhausted', the zoo announced on Thursday afternoon, after the decision was made on Wednesday

Berlin was euthanized after treatment options were ‘exhausted’, the zoo announced on Thursday afternoon, after the decision was made on Wednesday

Berlin moved to Kansas City Zoo in 2012, where she stayed for the final decade of her life (file image)

Berlin moved to Kansas City Zoo in 2012, where she stayed for the final decade of her life (file image)

People took to social media to share their memories of visiting Berlin at the zoo

People took to social media to share their memories of visiting Berlin at the zoo

Polar Bears live in the Arctic on ice-covered water. They rely on ice to access seals to eat and to rest and breed on.

They can be found in the US (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway. They are known for travelling around slowly, at around three miles an hour.

Polar bears are adapted to cope with a cold climate.

The outer layer of fur is hollow and reflects light. This means it appears to be white which helps them to be camouflaged on the ice. The skin underneath is actually black but this can only be seen on the nose. 

They have a thick layer of fat under their skin and, alongside their big size, this helps to generate heat in the freezing environments. 

In addition, they have grip on their pads and webbing between their toes which helps with walking on ice and swimming.  

Their litter size is usually two, but can range between one and four (rare).  

Kansas City Zoo said it would make its annual contribution from the conservation fund to Polar Bears International in Berlin’s memory.  

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