He belonged to Singapore like the Merlion or the Marina Bay Sands Hotel: Inuka, the first and only polar bear to be born in the tropics. His father was Nanook and his mother Sheba, the first ice bears in Singapore. Inuka was born on Boxing Day in 1990, a real Christmas present to the Singaporean Zoo. At his birth Inuka just weighed 350 grams. In the course of the years he became a 500 kg polar bear. Through his droll nature he excited children and adults alike. Inuka was the darling of the visitors. In 1993, Inuka was one of the 28 people and things Singaporeans call their own, alongside Vanda Miss Joaquim (Singapore Orchid) and the Singapore Sling (a gin-based cocktail)
Of course, there were and still are discussions whether it’s appropriate to keep a polar bear in the tropical conditions of Singapore. Inuka’s habitat was as good as possible; adapted to polar conditions, the water was cooled down to some 17 degrees and its tundra cave was airconed. And of course, Inuka’s 400 m2 big enclosure cannot compete with the polar bear’s natural habitats which may comprise up to 80.000 m2. Let’s be honest – isn’t this discussion of whether cages, caves and animal enclosures are appropriate for animals kept in a Zoo applicable to each animal kept in a Zoo anywhere in the world? One has to decide on the basic question whether there should be Zoos in order to satisfy man’s curiosity to watch animals, and not just exotic ones.
As far as Inuka is concerned one may argue, he was already born in the Zoo. For him the Zoo and the climatic conditions were normal. (compare thereto with Plato’s allegory of the cave)
In recent years, Inuka suffered increasingly from age related diseases. Health examinations revealed that his health was declining rapidly. Since extensive medical treatment brought no improvement to Inuka’s condition, the Zoo decided not to prolong Inuka’s suffering and to euthanize him.
Inuka died on the 25th of April 2018 at an age of 27 years*.
* In the wild, polar bears live between 15 and 18 years, in captivity up to 25 years. The fact, that Inuka lived to 27 years and his mother Sheba died at the age of 35 (!) shows that the conditions in the Singaporean Zoo must have been outstanding for the bears.