Most recently, the Singapore Zoo and its first local-born polar bear Inuka have made the news as Inuka had been put down due to declining health.

Who is Inuka?

Inuka was a mascot of the Singapore Zoo and is known for being the first polar bear to be born in the tropics. Inuka’s birth was the result of the Singapore Zoo’s extensive breeding programme.

Inuka is the child of the original 2 polar bears at the Zoo, Nanook and Sheba. These 2 polar bears arrived in 1978 with Nanook originating from Winnipeg Zoo in Canada and Sheba from Cologne Zoo in Germany. Inuka was born on 26 December 1900 and his name was chosen from a nationwide naming contest.

In May 2007 after the death of Inuka’s mother Sheba, the Zoo made the decision to keep Inuka istead of sending it to a temperate-country zoo. Inuka would also be the final polar bear housed at the Singapore Zoo as they stated that no other polar bears would be imported. Inuka was housed at the Frozen Tundra exhibit which included a big climate-controlled enclosure for the polar bears.

Inuka’s adoption by the Zoo is covered by the SPH Foundation and the organization had regularly organized events such as his birthday parties and other zoo sponsorships.

Increasing Health Issues

The first sign of trouble was back in 2004 where both Inuka and Sheba had algae growing on their fur due to the hot and humid Singaporean weather. The issue was solved by the spraying of hydrogen peroxide on the bears, however this issue led to widespread debate on the suitability of keeping the bears in a tropical country like Singapore.

Most recently in early 2018, the Zoo reported that Inuka had been less active than usual. A health examination on 10 April showed that he had a stiffer gait that was especially noticeable in its hind limb. This shuffling gait had led to painful abrasions on his paw pads. To make matters worse, it was observed that Inuka was suffering from muscle atrophy due to old age as well.

A second health examination on 25 April took place, at which the care team decided “not to revive him from anaesthesia on humane and welfare grounds”. Inuka was then put down on “humane and welfare grounds”, ending its life of about 70 human years. The Zoo has stated the possibility of preserving Inuka’s body parts for educational purposes.

Inuka’s exhibit will also be refurbished over the next few months and subsequently used to house sea lions.

The Final Farewell

A day after Inuka was put down, staff of the Singapore Zoo had a private memorial to say goodbye. Flowers were placed in Inuka’s now-empty enclosure and white roses were placed on photos of Inuka as well. The photos featured Inuka from birth till now.

It was an emotional event for the zookeepers and staff as they bid farewell to one of the zoo’s most iconic and loved mascots.

A memorial wall was also set up for members of the public to offer tributes and paw shaped stickers were provided for the private event. 

Reactions to the news

There have been a range of reactions to this upsetting news.

Most netizens, of course, expressed disbelief and sadness towards the death of Inuka. They also acknowledged Inuka as a true Singaporean mascot.

 

Some forum users blamed the Singapore Zoo for Inuka’s death as they felt that Inuka should not have been kept in a tropical country like ours, or that Inuka should have been set free.

Others were suspicious of the reasons behind the decision to put down Inuka on 26 April. Of course, there were also those who justified the decision on the basis of not letting Inuka suffer any more than he had to.

Indeed, Inuka will be mourned and missed by many who loved and visited him.