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Oldest polar bear in captivity in the US dead at 33

KCZoo Berlin 1.jpeg
KCZoo Berlin 2.jpeg
Posted at 3:44 PM, Jan 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-12 18:45:53-05

A 33-year-old polar bear who lived at the Kansas City Zoo in Missouri for around 10 years has died, according to a statement from zoo officials released on Thursday.

Berlin was the oldest polar bear in captivity in the United States. Zoo officials said it was "a testament to the extraordinary care she received from her animal care and veterinary health teams."

Berlin was euthanized on Wednesday morning, the zoo said.

“Unfortunately, Berlin’s health had significantly declined ... it was determined there were no other additional medical options to improve her condition,” the KC Zoo said in the statement.

“She was euthanized surrounded by her caregivers,” the zoo said.

Berlin was being treated for hypertension and kidney failure.

“Berlin will be dearly missed by her Zoo family, including staff, volunteers, and guests,” the zoo said.

“The Kansas City Zoo will make its annual contribution from the Zoo’s Conservation Fund to Polar Bears International in memory of Berlin this year to aid in conserving this amazing, vulnerable species and their habitat in the wild,” the statement read.

Born on Dec. 11, 1989 at the Cincinnati Zoo, she came into the world amid the aftermath of the World War II-era Berlin Wall's fall.

Berlin was taken to Kansas City after flooding at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minnesota, forced her keepers to search for another home for the bear in 2012.

Polar bears are known to live around 15 to 18 years in the wild and more than 23 years on average in captivity, making Berlin's age at death somewhat rare.

“Berlin was a beloved ambassador for her species and helped contribute to research that has benefited the wild polar bear population,” the zoo said.

“Her animal care specialists commended her big personality and described her as ‘smart and sassy’ and say she gave all of her caregivers ‘a run for their money!’” the statement read.

A 31-year-old polar bear named Bam Bam died from liver cancer at the zoo in 2019.

The city's zoo has one other polar bear, a 6-year-old male named Nuniq, who arrived in 2020.

In September 2021, Smithsonian Magazine reported that North America's oldest polar bear living in captivity at that time, Snow Lilly, died at age 36 at the Milwaukee County Zoo where she had lived for nearly 16 years.

This story was originally published by KSHB in Kansas City, Missouri — with additions from Scripps News.