Polar Bears International

Szenja reached millions of people as an ambassador for her wild cousins, inspiring them to care about the Arctic and take action on climate. Photo courtesy of SeaWorld San Diego.

4/26/2017 11:24:46 AM

Loss of Bear at SeaWorld

A few days ago, a 21-year-old polar bear, Szenja, passed away at SeaWorld San Diego after signs of deteriorating health. We offer our condolences to the animal care staff and trainers on the loss of this beloved bear, who helped millions of people connect with the Arctic and understand the threats of sea ice loss.

As a science-based organization, we rely on peer-reviewed research and factual information. And so, we thought we’d take a moment to review what we know and what we don’t know:

  • In the wild, polar bears typically live 15 to 18 years and some into their 20s. In zoos they may live 20 to 30 years, with one especially long-lived bear reaching 41.
  • While studies have not been done on relationships of polar bears in zoos, we do know that in the wild polar bears are mostly solitary animals, typically spending time with other bears only as cubs, as mothers with cubs, or when mating. In seasonal ice areas, where the bears are driven ashore in summer, they may gather while waiting for the ice to return in the fall. They also sometimes congregate to feast on an unusually large food source, such a whale carcass.

As one of our Arctic Ambassador Centers, SeaWorld is part of a network of zoos, aquariums, and museums that help educate the public about climate change and the urgent need to take action.

“Our AACs help bring our message to millions of people every year and play an important role in conservation,” said PBI Executive Director Krista Wright. “They also support field research and take part in studies that add to our understanding of polar bears in the wild. Their help in educating the public about climate change is having a real impact, and we're grateful for the role they play in building momentum for action.”

To learn more about how zoos help polar bear conservation, visit this Q & A with our chief scientist, Dr. Steven Amstrup.

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