Wang, the only polar bear
in Africa, has taken the death of his life-long partner very hard, tearing up
toys and grass in the enclosure they shared, and two weeks after his loss he is
The 30-year-old Geebee was
found dead on January 13 in the pool of her Johannesburg Zoo enclosure after a
heart attack. The two had been partners since they arrived at the South African
zoo in 1985, each of them barely a year old.
"When we found her
dead he wouldn't let us to her," the zoo's chief vet Katja Koeppel told
"He refused to go back
into the night room. He stayed out in the sun."
Read: How do you deal with grief?
If not pacing about, Wang
stood by Geebee's body and barely ate his rations, she said. After 24 hours, Koeppel
had to sedate Wang to retrieve Geebee's remains.
For days afterwards, he was
inconsolable, cutting up his toys and even bending the steel door of his pen,
nestled his head beneath his formidable front paws, as though trying to shut
out the world. Occasionally he raised his head to sniff the air.
"He is coming to terms
with it," said Koeppel.
Geebee arrived nearly three
decades ago from Canada, while Wang came from a zoo in Japan. Despite being
life-long partners, they did not breed because females must be in temperatures
below 20 degrees Celsius for a minimum of 30 days.
Read: Dealing with death
In the wild, polar bears
live for about 18 years and tip the scales at 400kg (880 lbs). Wang is now
250kg after losing muscle mass due to extreme old age and liver failure.
The last polar bear in Africa
"I don't expect him to
live for more than a year. He is 30 now. He is an old man," Koeppel said.
When his time does come, it is likely to be the end of polar bears in Africa.
"It is not right to
keep polar bears in this environment and we are doing nothing for conservation
because we can't breed them," she said.
"It is not appropriate
to have polar bears in captivity in Africa."
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