"Alaska," a Maryland Zoo polar bear that had been rescued from a Mexican circus a decade ago, was euthanized Tuesday after suffering from kidney failure, zoo officials said.
The female bear had been confiscated in Puerto Rico by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents in March 2002 after the circus abandoned her there. When she arrived at the zoo soon after, animal keepers found that she was deaf, overweight and had poor muscle tone, but they nursed her to health and developed a training program using hand signals and other visual cues.
"Alaska was such a remarkable polar bear with a story that touched thousands of people over the course of her life here at the Zoo," said Don Hutchinson, the zoo CEO, in a statement. "Words cannot describe how our entire staff is feeling, in particular the keepers who worked with her every day for years."
Zoologists estimate the bear was in her late 20s. Median life expectancy for female polar bears is estimated to be about 24, zoo officials said. Kidney disease is a common ailment in older bears, they said.