Oldest known Malayan bear in U.S. captivity euthanized in Arizona

Reuters News
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Posted: May 06, 2015 6:58 PM

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A 34-year-old Malayan sun bear who is believed to be the oldest in U.S. captivity has been euthanized at a southern Arizona zoo, officials said on Wednesday.

Dresena, who zoo keepers said had an affinity for peanuts and honey, was put to death on Tuesday after test results late last week confirmed significant abnormalities in her brain.

"With a poor long-term prognosis and a continued decline in her condition, it became clear her quality of life would not improve and the very difficult decision to euthanize her was made," Dr. Alexis Moreno, veterinarian at Tucson's Reid Park Zoo, said in a statement.

The median life expectancy for female Malayan sun bears is 23 years, according to the zoo.

Officials said the 156-pound Dresena came to Tucson from the San Diego Zoo in 2001. They said she had become increasingly shy in the last few years, preferring to stay in her out-of-view den due to her failing eyesight.

But she had long been popular with groups attending behind-the-scenes tours and educational programs conducted by the zoo.

"She was a special bear, she had a unique way about her," said Vivian VanPeenen, the zoo's education curator. "This is going to leave a void in our zoo family for sure. It's very sad."

Sun bears are native to Southeast Asia and considered vulnerable due to deforestation and hunting, zoo officials said. They said the species is also poached for their gall bladders, which are used by some cultures in traditional medicines.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis)