Feature: Singaporean polar bear celebrates 37th birthday
by Wang Lili
SINGAPORE, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) — Polar bear Inuka on Tuesday embraced his 37th birthday in Singapore zoo, swimming to an iceberg from the pool of his habitat and eating up with satisfaction half a watermelon which zoo keeper Stefan Ng said is his favorite.
Singapore Zoo organized a birthday party for Inuka, the first polar bear born in a tropical area. Besides watermelon, the zoo also prepared a local agar-agar cake embedded with Norwegian salmon. Inuka received a birthday gift — a blue “red envelop” filled with blueberries.
Watermelon was included in Inuka’s last year birthday menu, which also grouped ice blocks and other fruits but an agar-agar cake was new for Inuka.
Derived from seaweed and common ingredients in Asian desserts, agar-agar was chosen this year to cater to the polar bear’s changing tastes and lessen the burden for his aging teeth.
Born from a Canadian father and a German mother and growing up in Singapore, Inuka has been a local star.
Approximately 400 visitors gathered in the Frozen Tundra to sing Inuka a birthday song and witness him enjoying his birthday treats.
The name Inuka which means “Silent Stalker” in Inuit, was picked from more than 10,000 entries in a nationwide naming contest.
Ng, who first met Inuka when he was only three years old, decided to apply for the post to take care of the bear after his graduation though he majored in business in college. He said he was lucky to join the six-member team to look after Inuka.
Inuka has surpassed the 25-year average lifespan of polar bears under human care. In human years, he would be in his 70s.
He is currently on a special senior animal care program which includes modified care routines, special diets and close observations by a team of dedicated keepers and vets. A quality of life assessment is also carried out daily to allow his carers to objectively assess Inuka which continues to enjoy a good quality of life.
Inuka’s healthcare regime includes weekly visual health checks by the zoo’s veterinary team, and thorough health examinations twice a year under general anesthesia with the next one scheduled for the first quarter of 2018.
Arthritis, dental issues and occasional ear infections are some of the ailments that are being managed, and Inuka is currently on a long-term glucosamine and antiinflammatory treatment to alleviate the symptoms of his arthritis.
In recent months, Inuka rests more frequently throughout the day and has more discerning taste when it comes to food. Inuka currently weighs 513 kg and its keepers have been trying to adjust his diet on a regular basis to make sure he maintain an optimal weight closest to 520 kg to alleviate any discomfort in his joints.
Singapore zoo has made it clear that they would rear no more polar bears after Inuka, and the visitors who loved Inuka all wished him a happy birthday and longevity.