In Depth

RIP Inuka: Singapore’s ‘tropical polar bear’ dies aged 27

Bear was beloved by island nation - but many questioned ethics of his captivity

The world’s first “tropical polar bear” has died in Singapore at the age of 27.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which manages the Singapore Zoo in Mandai, announced that Inuka had been allowed to pass away under anesthesia on medical advice.

Inuka was Singapore’s first ever native polar bear, born in 1990 to a mother raised in captivity in Germany and a father captured in the wild in Canada.

His name, meaning ‘foreboding strength’ in Inuit, was chosen by a public contest, and at the age of three Inuka “was chosen as one of the city’s icons by its main broadsheet, the Straits Times, alongside the Singapore Sling cocktail”, Reuters reports.

For nearly three decades, he was a local celebrity, entertaining visitors with his playful nature, says the South China Morning Post.

“Singaporeans have known Inuka from the time he was a cub, and have seen him growing up and ageing,” said zookeeper Mohan Ponichamy.

“It has been a privilege and honour being his caregiver, but difficult as it may be, it would not have been fair to prolong his suffering.” 

Despite spending his life in a distinctly non-polar climate, Inuka lived two years longer than the average lifespan of a polar bear in captivity and around ten years longer than a bear in the wild.

Inuka, whose mother lived to the age of 35, “had been on a ‘seniors programme’ at the zoo for the past five years, to help elderly animals deal with the effects of ageing,” the South China Morning Post reports.

However, in recent years, he had suffered a myriad of worsening health problems, including arthritis, dental problems and ear infections”.

Although Inuka was considered a beloved national icon to many Singaporeans, some were uneasy about the bear’s unnatural habitat. 

“In 2004, when the fur on Inuka and his mother started turning green, questioning began over the ethics of keeping polar bears in the tropics,” says SBS. The tinge was attributed to algae growth caused by humdity.

Recommended

What would happen if China tried to invade Taiwan?
Chinese troops on mobile rocket launchers during a parade in Beijing
Fact file

What would happen if China tried to invade Taiwan?

InterContinental Singapore
The swimming pool at the InterContinental Singapore
In Review

InterContinental Singapore

Why is New Zealand shutting its borders again?
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern adjusts her face mask following a press conference
In Depth

Why is New Zealand shutting its borders again?

What next for Tonga after deadly volcano eruption?
Aerial footage provided by the New Zealand Defence Force shows heavy ash across Tonga
The latest on . . .

What next for Tonga after deadly volcano eruption?

Popular articles

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik
In Depth

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?

Are we heading for a snap general election?
Jacob Rees-Mogg
Today’s big question

Are we heading for a snap general election?

Why is New Zealand shutting its borders again?
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern adjusts her face mask following a press conference
In Depth

Why is New Zealand shutting its borders again?

The Week Footer Banner