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Friday, December 01, 2023
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Running out of time

Fred, a 20-year-old grizzly bear from the Buffalo Zoo, was euthanized on April 9 due to age-related neurological problems. As of now, the Buffalo Zoo only has seven bears left, six of which are nearing the end of their life spans.
"Bears typically live [to] between 20 and 25 years old," said Jennifer Fields, public relations coordinator for the Buffalo Zoo. "Some may live longer, but those numbers are the average ages. Our bears are [in that range] right now."
Fred came to the Buffalo Zoo in 2002 from the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in Montana. He was removed from his native Alaskan habitat after he became dependant on human garbage.
For the safety of both Fred and the people around him, the bear was moved to Montana and then later transferred to the zoo.
As of now, the zoo only has one young bear, Anana, a 9-year-old female polar bear. The zoo has decided to not acquire any more bears for a few years because it is planning to build a new state-of-the-art polar bear habitat, which will become the focal point of the bear exhibit.
"We felt like taking on new bears when we are going to be renovating the exhibit would be pointless," Fields said. "There is no use getting new bears when we will have to relocate them soon after."
However, the remaining male polar bear, Nanuq, may not be around to live in his new home. According to a press release from the Buffalo Zoo, the 22-year-old male polar bear is in the last stages of his life.
Age is certainly a problem; the other bears in the exhibit are showing signs of age and illness and may not be around for much longer.
Diana is a 31-year-old spectacled bear and is the third oldest spectacled bear in North America. However, signs of age are apparent in her.
"[She] has developed some age-associated changes, including hair loss and arthritis," Fields said in the press release.
Furthermore, Hannah, the other spectacled bear, has just been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma and will be undergoing chemotherapy.
Although dying in captivity is a normal occurrence, the Buffalo Zoo underwent scrutiny in 2007 when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called to revoke the Zoo's membership in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums after the deaths of at least three polar bears, a hyena and a sea lion in that year.
"PETA's request [came] after the group examined U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports," said PETA's website. "The violations cited in the reports describe trash-strewn enclosures, a negligent and incompetent staff and judgments by decision makers that led directly to animal suffering."
PETA has become aware of the recent deaths of the zoo animals and Lisa Wathne, the PETA captive exotic animals specialist, believes that the zoo does not have a good track record when it comes to the safety of their animals.
"As far as [Fred] goes, his death seems reasonable because [20] is old for a bear," said Wathne. "However, if it so happens that [the Buffalo Zoo] is culpable for [the deaths of more animals] … then [PETA] will ask the United States Department of Agriculture and the AZA to revoke the zoo's accreditation and license," Wathne said.
However, the zoo feels protective of its animals and plans to relocate the spectacled bears to the Vanishing Animals Exhibit, featuring endangered animals, while renovations for the polar bear display are underway.
Anana will most likely be able to enjoy her new habitat, but her considerably older mate, Nanuq, will probably have passed away by the time the exhibit is finished. The zoo plans to get another male bear and will also have room for whatever offspring they may produce.
"The bears are incredibly special animals and are beloved by our staff and visitors," said Dr. Donna M. Fernandes, president/CEO of the Buffalo Zoo, in the press release. "While they are certainly showing signs of age-related issues, the Buffalo Zoo remains committed to providing high quality care for them for the duration of their lives."




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