Visitors to Singapore will know the Singapore Zoo as one of the best in the world, but for Singaporeans, our connection to the institution is a lot more personal.
Generations of Singaporeans have grown up with the zoo’s most famous residents. There was Ah Meng the Sumatran orangutan, there were the white Bengal tigers, Omar, Winnie and Jippie, and there was Sheba the polar bear.
And of course, there’s Sheba’s son, Inuka; the first, and only, polar bear born in the tropics. As much as they always seemed like permanent fixtures, we’ve bid farewell to all but one of these icons over the years. Then, earlier this month, it emerged that Inuka’s health was in decline.
This was no surprise; at 27, Inuka is in his 70s as far as human years go, and a placard by his enclosure tells of his arthritis and dental issues that have come with age. In spite of this, Inuka has kept lumbering (and swimming) along.
With recent developments, however, his keepers face a difficult decision, one that any pet owner would know all too well: does he still have quality of life, or is it time to say goodbye?
That decision will be made after an examination – reportedly scheduled for Wednesday, April 25 – but many aren’t waiting to see what happens.
Singaporeans have been showing up at the zoo in droves to see Inuka, hoping for good news but ready to accept what might be best for him and, above all, happy to be able to spend more time with a favourite son.
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