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Boris the polar bear dies at Tucson Zoo

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Boris the polar bear dies at Tucson Zoo

  • One of the Reid Park polar bears - Boris or Kobe - relaxes in this 2007 photo.
    guppiecat/FlickrOne of the Reid Park polar bears - Boris or Kobe - relaxes in this 2007 photo.

Boris, an 11-year-old polar bear at the Tucson Zoo, died Friday after a medical procedure.

Boris may have had a reaction to the anesthesia during an examination, said Vivian VanPeenan, a spokeswoman for the zoo, in a news release Monday.

Boris had lived at the Reid Park Zoo since 2001.

"Boris had a history of low thyroid levels and dermatitis. Over the past several weeks Boris exhibited unusual behavior including loss of appetite, periods of lethargy, foot sensitivity, and agitation," VanPeenan said.

Boris was examined Friday by the zoo's veterinarians, a dermatologist and a polar bear reproductive specialist from the Cincinnati Zoo.

"While under anesthesia, the bear responded appropriately with good vital signs. When he woke up from the procedure he immediately began exhibiting symptoms of an anesthetic reaction," VanPeenan said.

"We were all shocked and saddened by his death," said Susan Basford, zoo administrator. "Unlike the death of an elderly animal you are preparing to lose, the death of an animal like this is devastating."

"His condition indicated the need to do a thorough examination," says Dr. Alexis Moreno. "The only way to collect blood and other samples on a polar bear is with anesthesia. We followed the recommended course of drugs and treatment, but his response was unusual."

Kobe, the zoo's remaining female polar bear, is doing well, said VanPeenan. Plans to replace Boris have not been considered yet, she said. "Due to the solitary nature of polar bears, it is not an immediate concern," she said.

Kitabu, an 18-year-old male African lion at the Reid Park Zoo, died in October following a stroke earlier in the year.

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