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Debby, World's Oldest Polar Bear, Passes At the Age of 42 Years


Photo - Kitty Mowmow

Debby, the star polar bear at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba has passed at the age of 42...here are 2 articles from FPNS Winnipeg.

With the news that these stunning and regal creatures are on the verge of extinction because their ice-world is melting faster than they can adapt to it, this story is one more sorry and tragic tale in the lives of these beautiful bears...

Don't tell me that global warming's not having an effect on the world and its children...the polar bear is a perfect example of what is happening to many of our beautiful birds and animals, and it makes me cry.

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 - World’s oldest polar bear dies
FPNS WINNIPEG — The oldest polar bear in the world is dead at 42.

Officials with the Assiniboine Park Zoo announced in a statement Monday evening that Debby was euthanized earlier in the day, “surrounded by her caring zookeepers and veterinarians.”

She was euthanized within hours of a veterinary exam that discovered the ailing bear had suffered multiple organ failure. Up until Monday, Debby was described as being “alert and active.”

Her loss marks the end of an era for the zoo.

“Debby was without a doubt the most famous animal in the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s history. Her uncanny ability to strike magnificent and charming poses resulted in her being featured in countless photographs, films and media stories. She will be missed,” zoo co-ordinator Dr. Gordon Glover said.

Zoo officials disclosed this summer that the bear’s time was near. She had suffered a series of small strokes, and was losing weight rapidly.

“As a lifelong Winnipegger, I know what Debby meant to generations of Manitobans and other visitors. Her absence will be felt by many people,” Assiniboine Park Conservancy president and CEO Margaret Redmond said in a prepared statement.

About 18 million zoo visitors had seen Debby, making the bear the most popular attraction in the zoo’s 104-year history.

Born in the Russian Arctic in 1966, Debby arrived at the zoo as an orphaned cub in 1967, producing six offspring with her mate, Skipper.

When Debby was 41 years old, she was entered into Guinness World Records 2008 as the oldest living polar bear.

Her death means the province famous for being the “polar bear capital of the world” and a world leader in polar-bear conservation will not have a single member of the species in its largest zoo.


Photo - Assiniboine Park Zoo file

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 - Zoo does some soul-searching after Debby’s death

The sound of crashing ice reverberated around the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s empty polar-bear enclosure, as workers pulled the plug on the pool that served as a swimming hole for the zoo’s most cherished resident.

Debby the polar bear, the longest-lived member of her species, was euthanized on Monday after surviving in captivity for more than 41 years. Ailing from strokes and organ failure since August, she spent her final few months eating cream puffs, smoked goldeye and peanut-butter sandwiches before a grim blood test on Monday morning forced a reluctant veterinarian to administer a fatal dose of sodium pentobarbital.

On Tuesday afternoon, when the water was drained from her enclosure, a layer of surface ice fell with a crack to the bottom of the hollow, concrete structure.

No other polar bear will ever dwell in this space, which was state-of-the-art when it was built in the 1950s, but no longer conforms to Manitoba Conservation standards created in part by Assiniboine Park Zoo staff.

As the zoo mourns the passing of Debby, its star attraction and virtual soul, the debate has begun about how to market the zoo without a polar bear — and how to build a new enclosure that will do justice to her iconic Arctic species.

“If we build a new enclosure, it can’t just be an exhibit. It has to be a conservation centre,” zoo co-ordinator Gordon Glover said Tuesday as zoo staff placed a wreath and photos of a healthier, slightly younger Debby in front of the barren enclosure.

Glover would love to see a state-of-the-art polar bear enclosure as a key component of a brand-new wing of the zoo that will highlight all of its North American animals.

The Zoological Society of Manitoba, which raises money for the zoo, envisions a new polar-bear exhibit that allows visitors to view the charismatic creatures both above and below the surface of the water — and also learn about the culture of the Canadian North.

Polar Bears International, an educational organization based in Assiniboine Park, wants the exhibit to be connected to Churchill by satellite link, especially when polar bears congregate along the Hudson Bay shoreline east of the Manitoba town in October and November.

All of the prospective players believe a state-of-the-art polar bear conservation centre could become one of Winnipeg’s premiere tourist attractions as well as a vital teaching and research facility, especially as climate change alters the culture and ecology of the Canadian Arctic.

But there are no plans to build such a facility any time in the near future, as a new polar-bear enclosure is only one of many potential upgrades to Assiniboine Park under consideration by the new arm’s-length agency in charge of the city’s largest green space.

In January, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy will present city council with a plan to revitalize the entire park, which faces an infrastructure deficit estimated at more than $200 million.

Conservancy CEO Margaret Redmond said the zoo is just one part of that plan, which will eventually see the city transfer control of the park to the conservancy.

According to a letter sent to Mayor Sam Katz’s cabinet, the conservancy is planning to launch a $150-million fundraising campaign in the fall of 2009 to help rebuild the park’s facilities, which also include a decaying conservatory, poor drainage, pockmarked roads and tattered recreational facilities.

“We won’t be doing this all at once,” said Redmond, who expects improvements to the park to be made over the course of 10 or 15 years. The zoo may be addressed sooner, but there is no rush to build a new polar-bear enclosure, she said.

“Debby’s passing doesn’t change what we’re doing in any way.”

Here is Gerry Thomas' gorgeous website. Gerry's one of the best photographers I know. He was blessed to spend a day in Churchill, Manitoba, photographing the polar bears on the ice. You can see a few of his images on his website.

Here are a couple of websites to look at...


"The polar bear, whose summertime Arctic hunting grounds have been greatly reduced by a warming climate, will be placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced on Wednesday." ~ Felicity Barringer, NY Times


Photo - Polar Bears International

Comments (1)

She was soooo cute! Great post.

Thanks, girasole,
I am amazed that she lived to such an age!
Polar bears in the wild are not that long for this world, so living in captivity seemed to agree with Debby.
A regal girl, for sure!

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