Tragic Loss: Mercedes, One of Britain’s Sole Two Polar Bears, Euthanized Following a Series of Health Challenges, Announced Zoo Keepers Today.
The 30-year-old female bear, visited by millions at Edinburgh Zoo, had advanced osteoarthritis.
She was being treated with painκιʟʟers at the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie, where she was moved two years ago.
A statement from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs the zoo, said: ‘It is with great sadness that we have to announce that early this morning Mercedes the polar bear had to be put painlessly to sleep due to age-related health problems and a recent rapid deterioration in her welfare.’
Mercedes was taken to Scotland in January 1984 from her native Canada.
She had been due to be shot after roaming into the town of Churchill several times in search of food.
While at Edinburgh Zoo she reared two cubs – Minty and Ohoto – with her partner Barney who ᴅιᴇd 13 years ago.
Mercedes was moved to a larger enclosure at Edinburgh’s sister zoo in the Highlands in October 2009 following a fundraising appeal.
After 13 years on her own she was finally joined by fellow polar bear Walker, who was transferred from a zoo in Holland.
Simon Girling, RZSS head of veterinary services, said before Mercedes’ ᴅᴇᴀтн: ‘Mercedes has now taken a significant turn for the worse in terms of her mobility and is also showing signs of mental confusion.
‘This deterioration in her welfare has prompted us to step in and humanely euthanise her.’
Jane Harley, the Highland Wildlife Park’s local veterinary consultant, said: ‘Mercedes has shown a marked deterioration in her condition over the last week.
‘She has signs of severe pain from arthritic joints that the medication no longer appears to be controlling.
‘She also appears to be showing signs of ‘old age senility’ which is causing her confusion and distress.
‘This has been a difficult decision for everyone who has been involved with Mercedes, but is the right decision for a very special bear.’
Mercedes’ demise follows in the wake of Berlin Zoo’s celebrity polar bear Knut who ᴅιᴇd in March in front on hundrends of onlookers.
Four-year-old Knut is believed to have drowned in his pool after suffering from pathologists believe was encephalitis that had most likely been caused by an infection.
A post-mortem examination will be carried out on Mercedes so vets can learn more about her condition, the zoo said.
Polar bears in the wild live 18 to 20 years on average, and 25 to 29 years in captivity.