For Release: January 5
Contact: Peper Long 202-673-0206
Zoo Spectacled Bear Euthanized
Smithsonian's National Zoological Park animal care staff and veterinarians made the decision to euthanize an elderly 28-year-old, male spectacled bear at approximately 4 p.m. today, after his quality of life had declined due to a history of bladder cancer and degenerative spinal changes (lumbar spondylosis).
The bear was born at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo on Jan. 12, 1976, and came to the National Zoo on breeding loan in April 1980.
As part of the national Species Survival Program (SSP) for spectacled bears, he fathered a number of litters, and was one of the key animals in this model program. Because of his breeding success, he was removed from the breeding program it is critical to maintain genetic variety, and, having bred so successfully, there was a danger of flooding zoo spectacled bear species with his genes.
Keepers worked hard to keep him comfortable, said Head Veterinarian Dr. Suzan Murray. According to veterinary staff, the bear had been taking medication, including anti-inflammatory drugs, for the past year, which proved very effective until recently.
Spectacled bears live in the Andes Mountains, and are South America's only bear species. Whitish or cream spectacles ring their eyes, and the light color often extends down the throat and chest, giving each individual a unique set of markings.
Spectacled bears grow five to six feet long and stand two to three feet high at the shoulder. Males are often 30 percent larger than females, often weighing more than 300 lbs. Their longevity in the wild is unknown, but in captivity they have been known to live approximately 30 years.
Two elderly, spectacled bears remain on exhibit at the National Zoo.