Zoo mourns loss of Nanuq


The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium mourns the loss of adult male polar bear, Nanuq, who was humanely euthanized Wednesday morning after a comprehensive medical examination by the Zoo’s veterinary staff and specialists from MedVet this week confirmed that he had liver cancer.

At 29 years old, Nanuq (NAN-nook) surpassed the 20.7-year median life expectancy for male polar bears in a North American zoo by more than eight years, a news release states. A full animal autopsy has been scheduled per standard Zoo protocol.

The Columbus Zoo now has five polar bears — female polar bear twins, Aurora and Anana, and three 5-month-old cubs (a male and two females).

Nanuq was a geriatric bear with age-related conditions requiring special medical attention that was administered by both the Zoo’s veterinary team and his care providers. His care providers worked to establish a trusting relationship with him that resulted in his voluntary participation of medical treatments ranging from accepting eye drops twice per day to receiving allergy serum drops under his tongue.

However, in mid-February, animal care staff noticed clinical signs of illness and decreased activity in Nanuq, resulting in veterinary staff conducting a thorough medical examination. Blood work indicated reduced liver function, and while he initially showed some improvement with medical management, the staff became more concerned when his symptoms recently returned.

Suspecting liver cancer, the veterinarians worked with MedVet to perform an abdominal ultrasound, which revealed multiple masses in his liver. Treatment options were limited and considered to be high-risk and ultimately ineffective, while also likely to contribute to an increasingly rapid decline of Nanuq’s welfare and quality of life.

“It is always a difficult time when we lose an animal, especially one as beloved as Nanuq,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Tom Stalf.

After his rescue in Alaska in April 1988, he lived at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Wisconsin until 2009 when he was moved to the Buffalo Zoo. There, he fathered female cub, Luna, who was born in 2012. Nanuq came to the Columbus Zoo on Oct. 16, 2012 from the Buffalo Zoo.

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