The Singapore Zoo said Friday that it will not move its male polar bear to a country with a colder climate, canceling the earlier decision. Meanwhile animal rights activists urged zoo to improve the conditions in the firs bear’s born in tropics enclosure.
The zoo's parent company, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said its animal welfare and ethics committee had recommended that Inuka, the 17-year-old bear, remain at the Southeast Asian zoo because of the risks involved in moving it.
"The transport of a full grown polar bear to an institution in a temperate country will be a stressful situation and carries its own share of risks, most extreme being that Inuka may die during transportation or during the introduction process in the new facility," the company said in a statement.
The zoo had said last year that Inuka would be moved to a country with a temperate climate after his mother dies, following a Singapore animal rights group's complaints that the bears were showing signs of distress.
Polar bears normally spend most of their lives on sea ice. In Singapore, Inuka and his 30-year-old mother, Sheba, are kept in an open and partly shaded enclosure that is cooled by misting fans and includes a pool. The bears can also use an off-exhibit air-conditioned den.
The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, or Acres, said Friday it was surprised by the zoo's decision. It urged the zoo to improve conditions in the bears' enclosure, which it says fails to meet international standards.
"If you go to the zoo today, he is still pacing, which is a very clear sign he is not doing well in this environment," Acres Executive Director Louis Ng said, referring to Inuka.
The group says the enclosure is too small and should not expose the bears to Singapore's yearlong tropical heat.
The zoo says Sheba originally came from a German zoo, and Inuka is the only polar bear to be born in the tropics. Their long life spans, it says, are proof that they are faring well at the zoo. However, it says it will reassess the situation when Sheba dies.