Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo mourns loss of beloved polar bear
Released: 6:30 p.m.
WINNIPEG - November 17, 2008 –It is with great sadness that Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo must advise that Debby the polar bear – one of the world’s most-famous and loved bears – was euthanized on Monday, November 17, 2008, surrounded by her caring zookeepers and veterinarians. Debby’s medical condition has been gradually declining for several months, but she remained active and alert until today, when a clinical exam indicated multiple organ failure.
News of Debby’s deteriorating health status was carried by media services around the world, demonstrating the remarkable popularity of this special bear.
Born in the Russian Arctic in 1966, and arriving at the Assiniboine Park Zoo as an orphaned cub in 1967, she spent most of her life with her mate Skipper, with whom she produced six surviving offspring. When Debby was 41 years old, she was entered into the 2008 Guinness Book of Records as the oldest living polar bear. At 42 years of age, she was within the top three longevity record-holders for all eight species of bears. Many children who admired Debby in her youth, later brought their own children and grandchildren to meet this great ambassador of the North.
Debby played a dominant role in the Winnipeg Zoo’s animal family for over four decades, generating great public appeal and important contributions to the Zoo’s interpretive programs. She epitomized what one orphaned animal can achieve in promoting the conservation of her species and other wildlife in light of mounting ecological and environmental challenges like global warming.
Assiniboine Park Zoo Coordinator, Dr. Gordon Glover said, “Debby was without a doubt the most famous animal in the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s 104-year 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 by millions of Zoo visitors.”
Margaret Redmond, President and CEO of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, expressed her sadness on hearing the news of Debby’s passing. “As a lifetime Winnipegger, I know what Debby meant to generations of Manitobans and other visitors. Her absence will be felt by many people, especially the Zoo staff who have cared for her so well over the years and with such great compassion during her recent decline.”
Redmond indicated that, “It is unfortunate that a new polar bear cannot be housed in the Zoo without a new enclosure being built to meet conservation standards. However, the Conservancy which has been recently created to ultimately redevelop Assiniboine Park, has been working tirelessly to create a revitalization plan for the entire Park, including the Zoo that will ensure its future sustainability and create new and exciting features for Manitobans and tourists to enjoy.”
The public is invited to celebrate Debby’s remarkable life at a ceremony to be held in the Zoo’s Animal Tracks Café from Noon to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 22, 2008.
In lieu of flowers, any members of the public wishing to make a donation in Debby’s memory are invited to direct their donations to the Zoological Society of Manitoba, 54 Zoo Drive, Winnipeg, MB R3P 2N8.