SINGAPORE, Singapore Zoo's resident polar bear Inuka is in declining health and may be put to sleep after a health examination later this month, said the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

The 27-year-old polar bear, the first to be born in the tropics, was examined by a veterinary team last Tuesday, and the results showed that its health is "declining markedly", WRS said.

Inuka, who suffers from arthritis, dental issues and occasional ear infections, now has a stiffer gait, particularly in its hind limbs. The abnormal shuffling gait has resulted in abrasions on its paw pads.

Age-related muscle weakness is also evident, WRS said.

Vets have since increased its daily care regime to include intensive treatment for its feet, and started him on painkillers and antibiotics.

A second veterinary examination has been scheduled for late April "to give further clarity" on its health. If results indicate that Inuka's health is not improving, vets may have to "make the very difficult decision" to put it to sleep, WRS said.

Inuka has been noticeably less active in the past three months and it now prefers resting to participating in daily interaction sessions with its keepers, WRS said.

It is also swimming less and appears to be less interested in its daily enrichment activity, which involves toys such as traffic cones, boomer balls and ice blocks embedded with its favourite food.

"While daily polar bear interaction sessions have been suspended to allow Inuka to enjoy his time as he pleases, fans can continue to visit him at Singapore Zoo's Frozen Tundra," WRS said.

Born on Dec 26, 1990, in Singapore Zoo, Inuka has exceeded the life expectancy of polar bears, WRS said. The average lifespan of polar bears in captivity is 25 years, while wild male polar bears have a life expectancy of 15 to 18 years.

Source: NAM News Network