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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) – Canadian zoo officials on Tuesday were mourning the death of what is believed to be the world’s oldest polar bear.
The 42-year-old bear named Debbie died on Monday, November 18, 2008 at a zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she had lived since 1967 after being captured as a orphaned cub in the Russian Arctic in 1966.
Debbie was in declining health due to her advanced age, and veterinarians decided to euthanize her after it was discovered she had suffered multiple organ failure.
She was listed as the world’s oldest polar bear by the Guinness Book of World Records when she turned 41, according to officials at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.
Debbie gave birth to six cubs at the zoo where she lived for many years with a male bear, Skipper, who died several years ago at age 34, according to the zoo.
Polar bears in the wild can live more than 30 years, but most do not survive even to age 20.
(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)
Many visitors in recent years, who were children when they first saw Debbie as a youngster, have brought their own children and grandchildren to see the cherished bear, they said.
“A wonderful ambassador for her species, it is significant that she has survived to 2008, the International Year of the Polar Bear,” so designated by Polar Bears International magazine, said officials.
An orphan from the Russian Arctic, Debbie arrived at the zoo as a cub in 1967.
Few polar bears reach 20 years in the wild
She produced six surviving offspring with her mate Skipper, who passed away in 1999 at the age of 34.
Her favourite pastime remains eating, zookeepers said of the 300-kilogram bear, in an interview with public broadcaster CBC.
This year(2008), the Guinness Book of World Records crowned Debby the world’s oldest bear.
In fact, she is thought to be the third oldest bear ever recorded for all eight living species of bears.
Zoo officials said she is “without a doubt the most popular animal in (the zoo’s) 104-year history”.
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