Africa’s last polar bear had to be put down by chief veterinarian Dr Brett Gardener due to liver and heart failure, spokeswoman Jenny Moodley said in a statement.
Wang the bear, 28, suffered from chronic arthritis and liver failure. He spent his last days mourning for GeeBee, his polar bear partner of 28 years, who died of a heart attack in January.
After GeeBee’s death, keepers had given special treats and even a Valentine’s Day celebration to Wang in hope to cheer him up.
Companies showered Wang with toys and gifts, including one offering a snow machine in the hopes that it might excite him with the association of subzero temperatures. But Wang had lived his entire life in a warm climate, and a sudden change in environment would be fatal for his age, the zoo said at the time.
Wang was born at a Japanese zoo in 1984, and GeeBee came from Canada after both were swapped for lions as part of a conservation exchange program with a zoo in China. The two met at the Johannesburg Zoo in 1986.
They did not breed because polar bears’ reproduction is stimulated by cold weather, Maluleke said.
In 2010, the zoo decided not to replace its aging polar bears, it said. Wang had been receiving treatment for liver problems for almost four years ago, it said.
As a tribute to Wang, the zoo would dedicate the Zoo Trot on September 14 to him.