Africa's last polar bear mourns partner's death

Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:11pm EST
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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Wang, the only polar bear in Africa, has taken the death of his life-long partner very hard, tearing up toys and grass in the enclosure they shared, and two weeks after his loss he is still grieving.

The 30-year-old Geebee was found dead on January 13 in the pool of her Johannesburg Zoo enclosure after a heart attack. The two had been partners since they arrived at the South African zoo in 1985, each of them barely a year old.

"When we found her dead he wouldn't let us to her," the zoo's chief vet Katja Koeppel told Reuters on Friday.

"He refused to go back into the night room. He stayed out in the sun."

If not pacing about, Wang stood by Geebee's body and barely ate his rations, she said. After 24 hours, Koeppel had to sedate Wang to retrieve Geebee's remains.

For days afterwards, he was inconsolable, cutting up his toys and even bending the steel door of his pen, she added.

On Friday, Wang often nestled his head beneath his formidable front paws, as though trying to shut out the world. Occasionally he raised his head to sniff the air.

"He is coming to terms with it," said Koeppel.

Geebee arrived nearly three decades ago from Canada, while Wang came from a zoo in Japan. Despite being life-long partners, they did not breed because females must be in temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius for a minimum of 30 days.   Continued...

Wang, the only polar bear in Africa, reacts as he mourns the death of his companion, Geebee, for the past two weeks at the Johannesburg Zoo, January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko