Sadly, it seems there’s a limit to how much heartache a polar bear can bear.
Szenja, a 21-year-old female, has died just weeks after her same-sex partner of 20 years was transferred to a different zoo.
Animal rights charity PETA claims Szenja, who was left alone at SeaWorld San Diego after her companion Snowflake was moved to Pittsburgh Zoo, died of a broken heart.
Caregivers said she had a loss of appetite and energy for about a week. A necropsy is planned, but the park says it could be several weeks before the cause of her death is known.
PETA says that the beloved polar bear “did what anyone would do when they lose all hope, she gave up”.
Szenja was born at a zoo in Germany in 1995. Two years later, she was brought to SeaWorld when the park opened its Wild Arctic exhibit. In 1997, Snowflake was brought to live with Szenja from the Buffalo Zoo in New York.
SeaWorld spokesman Al Garver said Szenja not only touched the hearts of those who have cared for her over the last two decades but also the millions of guests who had the chance to see her in person.
“We’re proud to have been a part of her life and to know that she inspired people from around the world to want to protect polar bears in the wild.”
Back in March, NBC San Diego reported that a petition to stop the separation of Szenja and Snowflake had received almost 45,000 signatures. But this was not enough to prevent Snowflake from being shipped to Pittsburgh in an attempt to breed.
SeaWorld explained that mobing Snowflake was part of a national program to increase the number of polar bears, which is estimated to be between 22,000 and 31,000.
Polar bears can live about 18 years in the wild and 20 to 30 years or more in captivity.
The oldest polar bear in the United States, a female called Uulu, died recently at the San Francisco Zoo. She was 36.