Singapore Zoo celebrates senior polar bear Inuka's 27th birthday

26 Dec 2017

SINGAPORE, 26 December 2017 – Singapore Zoo celebrated senior polar bear Inuka’s 27th birthday with a local twist this year. His care team dreamed up an agar-agar dessert embedded with Norwegian salmon, for the well-loved resident. In addition, Inuka received a birthday ‘ang pow’—albeit a blue one—filled with blueberries wrapped in banana leaves, and carrots.


Image 1: As part of a yearly tradition, Singapore Zoo celebrated the birthday of its beloved polar bear, Inuka, who turned 27 years today. Inuka’s care team dreamed up a novel agar-agar dessert topped with Norwegian salmon for the well-loved bear to enjoy, as approximately 400 guests looked on. Inuka, well into his golden years, is currently on a special senior animal care programme.


Previous renditions of Inuka’s birthday cakes usually consisted of an
ice-base and various toppings, but this year, keepers decided on
agar-agar to cater to his changing tastes and to make it easier on his
teeth to enjoy his birthday treat. Agar-agar, derived from seaweed, is a
vegetarian alternative to gelatin and features quite prominently in
Asian desserts. Firmer than jelly, agar-agar provides a bouncier bite—as
demonstrated by Inuka when he indulged in his novel cake.

To announce Inuka’s birthday plans and entice fans to join in the celebrations, a Facebook video was published last week, with a sneak peek of Inuka’s cake. Approximately 400 visitors gathered to enthusiastically sing Inuka a birthday song and witness him enjoying his birthday treats this morning. Three lucky guests were also given the privilege of watching Inuka from the usually off-limits keeper observation deck on the upper level of the Frozen Tundra grandstand.

Born on 26 December 1990, 27-year-old Inuka has surpassed the 25-year average lifespan of polar bears under human care. In human years, he would be in his 70s. He is currently on a special senior animal care programme which includes modified care routines, special diets and close observations by a team of dedicated keepers and vets. A quality of life assessment is also carried out daily, to allow his carers to objectively assess Inuka, who continues to enjoy a good quality of life.

Inuka’s healthcare regime includes weekly visual health checks by the Zoo’s veterinary team, and thorough health examinations twice a year under general anesthesia—with the next one scheduled for the first quarter of 2018. Arthritis, dental issues and occasional ear infections are some of the ailments that are being managed, and Inuka is currently on long-term glucosamine and anti-inflammatory treatment to alleviate the symptoms of his arthritis.

In recent months, Inuka rests more frequently throughout the day and has more discerning taste when it comes to food. To ensure his daily needs are met, keepers and the nutrition team adjust his diet on a regular basis to accommodate his changing palate. This in turn helps Inuka maintain an optimal weight closest to 520kg to alleviate any discomfort in his joints. Inuka measures 2.5m from nose to tail, and currently weighs 513kg.

In addition, an enrichment programme, consisting of different substrates and various ‘toys’ such as tyres and traffic cones, helps to keep him mentally and physically occupied.

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has supported Inuka’s upkeep since birth. SPH Foundation, the charity arm of SPH, took over the adoption from 2007.

Image 2: At 27 years old, Inuka is now well into his golden years. Fondly referred to as the “best Christmas present ever” by Singapore Zoo keepers, he was born in his mother’s den in the early hours of Boxing Day, 26 December 1990. His refurbished home in Frozen Tundra, which opened in May 2013, features climate-controlled resting areas and a large pool for him to take a dip in.


Image 3: Singapore Zoo celebrated the birthday of its beloved polar bear, Inuka, with a local twist by presenting him with an agar-agar dessert cake embedded with Norwegian salmon. Approximately 400 park guests were present to sing the birthday song and witness him enjoying the novel cake.


Image 4: Singapore Zoo’s polar bear, Inuka, blissfully enjoys the novel agar-agar dessert cake created by his care team for his 27th birthday celebrations. Inuka is the first polar bear to the born in the tropics and his name means ‘silent stalker’ in the Inuit language.


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