After two weeks of exhibiting significant deterioration in her health and becoming non-ambulatory, the Philadelphia Zoo made a decision to humanely euthanize female polar bear Klondike. Klondike was born at the Bronx Zoo in 1980. Veterinary clinicians could not treat a persistent urinary tract infection and were concerned that Klondike’s quality of life would continue to worsen, prompting a decision to euthanize her.
At the time of her death the 34 year old polar bear had exceeded the average age of captive polar bears by 4 years. Wild polar bears rarely live beyond 20 years of age.
According to AnAge, an animal aging and longevity database, the oldest polar bear in the world reached an age of 43.8 yrs before she died at the Detroit Zoo in 1991. The bear was wild born and a wonderful ambassador for her species as was Klondike.
Senescence is something seen in captive animals, but also in wild populations of many species. Considering that captive animals often live two to three times as long as their wild counterparts, zoos are extremely well prepared to accommodate the needs of aging animals and those near the end of their lives. Pain relief and geriatric care are just a part of a treatment plan for animals in need of palliative medical management. As needed, other forms of supportive care are provided, just as is the case with companion animals.
We at ZooNation send our condolences to the staff at the Philadelphia Zoo.
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