It was a sad day in Winnipeg this week when Debby the Polar Bear had to be euthanized.
Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Debby had been ailing for a while after a series of strokes last year. At age 42, Debby is famous for being the oldest living polar bear in the world. Few polar bears reach 20 years of age in the wild, but many have survived into their early 30s in captivity.
Recently zookeepers had been feeding her smoked goldeye, cupcakes and chocolate to entice her to eat.
Debby came to the Assiniboine Park Zoo in 1967 from Russia where she was orphaned as a cub. She had six babies with her longtime mate Skipper, who died in 1999 at age 34.
Debby has been the Zoo’s most popular attraction for many years. She loved to strike a pose for visitors. It wasn’t a visit to the zoo without seeing Debby. I loved watching her because she seemed so gentle and reminded me of my dog, who is 15 pounds as opposed to Debby’s 1100 pounds, but they are almost the same colour and have similar faces and paw movements. Sometimes my dog sits back on her butt like Debby the polar bear. I always especially loved seeing Debby dive into the pool and swim, her white fur floating around her. You could just tell she loved it.Zoo employees said she even had a sense of humour.
It could take years for the zoo to acquire a new polar bear, since the current bear enclosure is not up to provincial standards and the waiting lists for bear cubs for zoos are long.
Many people are planning ways to pay tribute to Debby’s memory.