There is so much that can be said about a friend that you have known all of your life and yet sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start. On Monday, November 17, Debby the polar bear passed away as the result of the complications of old age. She was surrounded by veterinary staff and by her many loving keepers at the time of her passing.
Debby came to the Assiniboine Park Zoo as an orphaned cub 42 years ago and spent many of those years with her partner Skipper. The pair produced six surviving offspring over their early years and then lived together until Skipper’s death at the age of 34, several years ago. Debby will be remembered by the millions of visitors who saw her and photographed her and affectionately proclaimed her the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Matriarch.
Debby’s passing was due simply to old age. She had been well over the last few years but in slow decline as anyone at such an advanced age would be. In the end, organ failure led zoo staff to make the decision to euthanize her so that she did not suffer the effects of organ shutdown. The Assiniboine Park Zoo is known around the zoo world as the place where many of its animals life very long, record breaking lives. Bobby-Jean, our Javan gibbon was 50 years of age when she passed away last year. Luke the hyena was the oldest hyena on record at his passing at the age of 23. There have been many others and I can only sum it up to the love and care that the animals at that Assiniboine Park Zoo receive from their keepers.
Whether zookeeper, zoo educator, park administrator or even zoo visitor, Debby made an impression on all of us that spent time with her. I will fondly remember the time I was able to spend with her and can only imagine my life is richer for it. If Debby made an impact in your life in some way, you are invited to help celebrate her life at the zoo on Saturday, November 22, from noon to 1 pm at the Animal Tracks Cafe. Memorials will be set up and there will be an opportunity for you to sign a condolence card.
More information will be available at www.zoosociety.com as details are worked out.
I hope to share more stories about Debby, and Skipper, in future blogs.