Klondike, a 34-year-old female polar bear who resided at the Philadelphia Zoo, was euthanatized Friday morning due to a recent serious decline in her medical condition. Zoo animal care staff confirmed that she had a noticeable deterioration in her health approximately two weeks ago, including difficulty standing and walking after lying down. After a complete veterinary exam, which included blood tests, x-rays and ultrasound, the team treated her for a urinary tract infection as well as mobility issues. Despite treatment, there was no significant improvement in her condition, and given her advanced age and poor prognosis for return to a good quality of life, zoo staff decided that the best decision would be to humanely euthanatize her. At 34 years old, Klondike exceeded the typical lifespan for her species and was the oldest polar bear in the country at the time of her death.
Klondike was born at the Bronx Zoo in November 1980. She arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo in October 1981 where she resided in the Zoo’s Bear Country exhibit with another female polar bear, Coldilocks. During her many years in Philadelphia, Klondike remained one of the Zoo’s most popular animals, often delighting visitors by diving around into her 125,000 gallon pool.
“We are very sad for this loss—Klondike was a very popular resident at Philadelphia Zoo,” says Kevin Murphy, General Curator. “She received great care from her keepers and the veterinary staff during her long and very healthy life here. She will be greatly missed by our staff. In addition to the joy she brought guests over more than three decades, she has been an important ambassador to wild polar bears, who are increasingly threatened by climate change and resulting shrinkage of polar ice. We hope she has inspired many to make commitments in their daily lives to reduce energy and water use, which will contribute to efforts to slow climate change.”
With a worldwide population estimated at only 20,000 to 25,000, Fish and Wildlife Service officials have concluded that polar bears could be endangered within 45 years. Many experts believe that global warming is causing the rapid depletion of floating arctic ice, which polar bears use as a pathways to hunt seals and find mates. Though they are strong swimmers, researchers have observed polar bears having to cover longer distances between the disappearing ice flows, in some cases leading to their drowning.
The Philadelphia Zoo’s surviving polar bear, Coldilocks, is also elderly at 34 years of age, and with Klondike’s death she now becomes the oldest polar bear in the U.S. A typical lifespan for polar bear in zoos is approximately 24 years.