Berlin: America’s oldest polar bear euthanized after suffering from incurable renal failure

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: The oldest polar bear in US captivity has died, according to the Kansas City Zoo. It was determined that “Berlin” was suffering from incurable kidney failure and had to be put down.


Born a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall on December 11, 1989, the reason for her unique name was “to honor the event”. The polar bear, who was 33 years old and the oldest in captivity in America, suffered from systemic hypertension prior to her recent diagnosis.


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Kansas City Zoo staff are mourning as they made the difficult decision to euthanize her on Jan. 9, 2023 after “having exhausted all treatment options,” the Kansas City Zoo said in a statement, which they also shared on Facebook.


In 2012, Berlin was living at Duluth’s Lake Superior Zoo when it flooded and famously swam to the perimeter wall of her habitat, where she waited for staff to arrive and spot her. She was temporarily housed at the Como Zoo in Saint Paul and came to Kansas City from there in December 2012, zoo officials said.


Berlin was a popular ambassador for her species and contributed to research that benefited the wild polar bear population. Praising her big personality, her keepers described her as “smart and cheeky” and said she gave all her keepers “a run for their money”!

“Berlin will be greatly missed by her zoo family, including staff, volunteers and guests,” the post continues. It continues, “The Kansas City Zoo will make its annual contribution from the Zoo’s Conservation Fund in Memory of Berlin to Polar Bears International this year to help preserve this amazing, endangered species and its habitat in the wild.”


“What a loss. Berlin was an incredible advocate for her species and for the zoo. Our daughter loved them and even dressed up like this for Halloween a few years ago. Our hearts go out to the entire zoo team, especially their caretakers.” Jenna Peterson Riley wrote on the post in memory of Berlin.

Lizzy Larson, director of animal management at Lake Superior Zoo, said: “I was one of the caretakers in Berlin for three years and what I will remember most about Berlin was how incredibly smart she was. Everything Berlin did had a purpose. She was able to solve every puzzle we gave her and I never found a toy she didn’t like! I will fondly remember how excited she would jump into her pool to play. She was well cared for in all the facilities she was allowed to live in and I know she touched countless hearts over her 33 years of life. We will all mourn her loss.”


Lake Superior Zoo staff missed “Berlin” dearly when she arrived in 1990 at just one year old. They also wrote her a tribute on Facebook. Staff said Berlin had been in the zoo’s care for 10 years. Shortly after her arrival, she was joined by her longtime boyfriend Bubba.

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