ROYAL OAK, Mich., July 18, 2012 – Bärle (pronounced BEAR la), a 27-year-old female polar bear rescued from a circus nearly 10 years ago, was euthanized today at the Detroit Zoo after a physical exam revealed tumors in her abdominal cavity. A necropsy showed that the lymph nodes throughout her body were abnormal and enlarged due to cancer. The preliminary diagnosis is lymphosarcoma, a term applied to malignant disease of the lymphoid tissues.
“We are very saddened by this loss,” said Scott Carter, Detroit Zoological Society Chief Life Sciences Officer. “Since her rescue a decade ago, Bärle has been a favorite of our staff and visitors. Her death was unexpected and heartbreaking for the people who cared for her.”
Zookeepers reported changes in Bärle’s behavior over the past five days, including decreased appetite. Efforts were made to encourage her to eat – including providing her with favorite foods of cooked sweet potatoes and chicken – to no avail. During a veterinary exam this morning to assess her condition, multiple tumors were discovered and the decision was made to humanely end her life.
Bärle was born in the wild in Manitoba, Canada, but was captured as a cub and lived most of her years as a performing circus bear. She was rescued from the Suarez Brothers Circus in Puerto Rico and brought to the Detroit Zoo in 2002. She became a first-time mother in 2004, giving birth to Talini, her only offspring.
“Bärle came a long way from living in a tiny cage and performing circus tricks in an unhealthy environment to being a healthy, nurturing mother,” said Carter. “We are comforted to know that we were able to provide her sanctuary for all these years.”
The average longevity for polar bears is 15 to 18 years in the wild and 25 to 35 years in zoos.
Bärle’s death leaves the Detroit Zoo with three polar bears at the Arctic Ring of Life – males Aquila, 19, and Nuka, 7, as well as Bärle’s daughter Talini, 7.