Troubled SeaWorld, which has been criticized by animal rights activists for years, has announced that it’s 21-year-old female polar bear has died unexpectedly from unknown causes.
Szenjahas been living at the San Diego zoo since 1997 when she was brought over from a zoo in Germany.
Caregivers said she has had a loss of appetite and energy for about a week.
In a statement on SeaWorld San Diego’s Facebook page, the marine zoo said:
Szenja was a beloved member of our animal family, so this is a very difficult day for all of us,” said Al Garver, SeaWorld San Diego’s vice president of zoological operations. “Szenja not only touched the hearts of those who have cared for her over the last two decades, but also the millions of guests who had the chance to see her in person. We’re proud to have been a part of her life and to know that she inspired people from around the world to want to protect polar bears in the wild.”
As an ambassador for arctic animals, Szenja not only enhanced the awareness of polar bears for the nearly 50 million guests that have visited Wild Arctic, according to SeaWorld and she has also provided researchers with information about polar bear’s hearing sensitivity, social habits, reproductive hormones and seasonal behavior patterns.
Polar bears can live about 18 years in the wild and 20 to 30 years or more in captivity.
The oldest polar bear in the United States, a female called Uulu, died last Friday at the San Francisco Zoo. She was 36.
Szenja’s death comes three months after SeaWorld separated her from her companion Snowflake. Snowflake was sent to Pittsburgh Zoo, Szenja stayed behind in San Diego and PETA believes the cause of death for the female polar bear was a broken heart.
Snowflake was shipped off to breed, according to PETA and father “more miserable polar bears.” In a statement, PETA said:
Szenja did what anyone would do when they lose all hope, she gave up. This should be a wake-up call to SeaWorld: Stop breeding and shipping animals around, close the animal exhibits, and retire the animals to sanctuaries. Until it does, this ship will keep sinking.