Debby died at Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo in Canada on Monday.
“It is with great sadness that Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo must advise that Debby the polar bear – one of the world’s most-famous and loved bears – was euthanized on Monday,” the zoo said in a statement.
“Debby’s medical condition had been gradually declining for several months, but she remained active and alert” until her final hours, “when a clinical exam indicated multiple organ failure.”
Debby arrived at the zoo as a cub in 1967. She produced six surviving offspring with her mate Skipper, who passed away in 1999 at the age of 34. Few polar bears reach 20 years of age in the wild, but several captive bears have survived into their early 30s. This year, the Guinness Book of World Records crowned Debby the world’s oldest polar bear. In fact, she is thought to be the third oldest bear ever recorded for all eight living species of bears.
Zoo coordinator Gordon Glover said Debby was “without a doubt the most famous animal in (the zoo’s) 104-year history. She epitomized what one orphaned animal can achieve in promoting the conservation of her species and other wildlife in light of mounting ecological and environmental challenges like global warming,” he said. “She will be missed by millions of zoo visitors.”
WINNIPEG – The oldest polar bear in the world is dead at 42.
Officials with the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg announced in a statement Monday evening that Debby the polar bear was euthanized earlier in the day, “surrounded by her caring zookeepers and veterinarians.”
She died within hours of a veterinary exam that discovered the ailing bear had suffered multiple organ failure. Up until Monday, Debby was described as being “alert and active.”
Her loss marks the end of an era for the zoo. “Debby was without a doubt the most famous animal in the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s history,” zoo co-ordinator Dr. Gordon Glover said in a prepared statement.
“Her uncanny ability to strike magnificent and charming poses resulted in her being featured in countless photographs, films and media stories. She will be missed.”
Zoo officials said this summer the bear was near death. She had suffered a series of small strokes, had blood in her urine and was losing weight rapidly. The report of her failing health was picked up by news services around the world, “demonstrating the remarkable popularity of this particular bear,” the statement said.
“As a lifelong Winnipegger, I know what Debby meant to generations of Manitobans and other visitors. Her absence will be felt by many people,” said Margaret Redmond, Assiniboine Park Conservancy president and CEO.
Debby had been seen by about 18 million zoo visitors, making the bear the most popular attraction in the zoo’s 104-year history, zoo curator Bob Wrigley said in August.
Born in the Russian Arctic in 1966, Debby arrived at the zoo as an orphaned cub in 1967, producing six offspring with her mate Skipper. When Debby was 41 years old, she was entered into Guinness World Records 2008 as the oldest living polar bear.
Her death means the province famous for being the “polar bear capital of the world” and a world leader in polar-bear conservation, will not have a single member of the charismatic species in its largest zoo.
The polar bear enclosure no longer meets Manitoba Conservation standards for housing polar bears, so the zoo will not be able to replace its star attraction with another polar bear. No immediate upgrades are planned for the aging facility, which is slated to be replaced by a new structure as part of a larger Assiniboine Park makeover that could cost up to $200 million.
The massive rebuilding project could take another 10 to 15 years.