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Beloved Kansas City Zoo polar bear Berlin dies

KCZoo Berlin 2.jpeg
KCZoo Berlin 1.jpeg
KCZoo Berlin 3.jpeg
Posted at 2:43 PM, Jan 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-12 16:05:52-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 33-year-old polar bear who lived at the Kansas City Zoo for the last decade has died, zoo officials said Thursday.

Berlin was the oldest polar bear in captivity in the United States, “which is a testament to the extraordinary care she received from her animal care and veterinary health teams,” the KC Zoo said in announcing the death.

Berlin was euthanized Wednesday morning.

“Unfortunately, Berlin’s health had significantly declined yesterday morning, and it was determined there were no other additional medical options to improve her condition,” the KC Zoo said in a statement. “She was euthanized surrounded by her caregivers.”

She was being treated for hypertension and kidney failure.

“Berlin will be dearly missed by her Zoo family, including staff, volunteers, and guests,” the zoo said in a statement. “The Kansas City Zoo will make its annual contribution from the Zoo’s Conservation Fund to Polar Bears International in memory of Berlin this year to aid in conserving this amazing, vulnerable species and their habitat in the wild.”

Originally born on Dec. 11, 1989, at the Cincinnati Zoo, in the aftermath of the World War II-era Berlin Wall being torn down, she came to Kansas City after flooding at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minnesota, forced her to find a new home in 2012.

Polar bears live 15 to 18 years in the wild and more than 23 years in captivity on average, so Berlin lived a very long life.

“Berlin was a beloved ambassador for her species and helped contribute to research that has benefited the wild polar bear population,” the zoo said in a statement. “Her animal care specialists commended her big personality and described her as ‘smart and sassy’ and say she gave all of her caregivers ‘a run for their money!’”

A 31-year-old polar bear named Bam Bam died from liver cancer at the zoo in 2019.

The KC Zoo still has one polar bear, a 6-year-old male named Nuniq, who arrived in 2020.