Goodbye, Sweet Polar Bear

Image via AP
Image via AP

Tundra, the Bronx Zoo’s resident polar bear, was euthanized last Saturday. At the time of his demise, he was the last polar bear left in New York City, following the deaths of Central Park Zoo polar bears Gus, in 2013, and Ida, in 2011. Though Tundra was 26 (which is very old in polar bear years) and was suffering from kidney failure, it is still very sad to see him go. This has not been a good year for bears.


Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo, announced Tundra’s death on Thursday:

Breheny told the Associated Press that Tundra, who exceeded the average life expectancy for zoo-residing male polar bears by about five years, “remained extremely active and playful until just before his death.” Breheny also fielded some online criticism from animal advocates who argued Tundra would have fared better in the wild than in captivity. Though the Wildlife Conservation Society’s position is that polar bears are just as happy in zoos as they are in the wild, there’s been some concern over the years about the “forced reality” bears face when stuck in fake habitats.

In 2016, WCS addressed inquiries over Tundra’s comfort level in the midst of an NYC heat wave, noting that the bear was perfectly fine in hot weather, though whether or not Tundra told them that is up for debate.

Polar bears have been in the news of late, thanks in part to a video released by National Geographic in December that showed an emaciated, starving bear looking for food on Canada’s Baffin Island. Though some critics argued that the video was misleading and bear populations are doing just fine, Nat Geo clarified that the warming climate is, in fact, hurting bears, thank you very much.

Anyway, goodbye Tundra, you were a nice bear, and now you are gone.




Speaking of that Nat Geo polar bear, maybe conservators should go capture him and bring him back to the New York zoo, where they can get him health and give him a good life. It breaks my heart to see any animal like this:

And while there are people who decry zoos as places of cruelty, where animals are confined for our pleasure, I believe they can also be humane places, where animals are given a good life while the people who come to see them learn about them and gain empathy for their counterparts in the wild.

If we are truly stewards of this planet, then we have an obligation to care for these animals, both in captivity and in the wild.