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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Inuka, the polar bear put to sleep at Singapore

Peter Sleep debuted against Pak at Melbourne in Mar 1979 and played his last test against the  Pakis at the same Melbourne in Jan 1990 – in between he played 14 Tests – and took 31 wickets.  ‘Put to sleep’ is not simply making one sleep – by putting him on bed !!

Conceptually, right to die is based on the thought  that a human being is entitled to end his or her own life or to undergo voluntary euthanasia. Possession of this right is often understood to mean that a person with a terminal illness should be allowed to end his own life or to use assisted suicide or to decline life-prolonging treatment. The question of who, if anyone, should be empowered to make this decision is often central to debate ? Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering.

There are different euthanasia laws in each country. The British House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics defines euthanasia as "a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering”.  Euthanasia is categorized in different ways, which include voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some countries. Active euthanasia is illegal in India. The Supreme Court has recently approved passive euthanasia but the guidelines are to be formulated and the protocols are yet to be set. Presently, there exists a living will where a patient, when he is fully conscious can make a will stating that he would not want intensive care treatment and would not want to be given critical care and also would not like to be put through the rigors of palliative care. This living will has to be framed by a lawyer and also submitted in the magistrate court, where the magistrate would have to approve of the same. This is a very burdensome task and many patients are not even aware of these formalities.

Polar bears are classified as marine mammals because they spend most of their lives on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. They have a thick layer of body fat and a water-repellant coat that insulates them from the cold air and water. Considered talented swimmers, they can sustain a pace of six miles per hour by paddling with their front paws and holding their hind legs flat like a rudder. Polar bears spend over 50% of their time hunting for food. The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a carnivorous bear whose native range lies largely within the Arctic Circle, encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. Polar bears are born on land, they spend most of their time on the sea ice. Because of expected habitat loss caused by climate change, the polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species.

Now to the age-old Q – should animals be left to live only in their habitats – and is it called preserving them, when they are kept isolated in Zoos thousands of miles away from their habitats ???

This morning, Singapore Zoo bade farewell to Inuka the polar bear, following a decision to put him down humanely.  It is reported that the  decision was made after a second medical examination revealed that despite intensive medical care and treatment, the bear's health condition and quality of life had not improved significantly. A joint decision was then made by a team of vets and keepers not to revive Inuka from anaesthesia on humane and welfare grounds. A preliminary medical examination on April 3 had revealed that the bear was in declining health.

Thus it was a conscious decision of its keepers that it shall no longer live ! – at  27 years old, Inuka surpassed the average life expectancy of polar bears, which typically live 15 to 18 years in the wild and 25 years under human care. Inuka would have been well into his 70s in human years.  The zoo keepers decided that it was not to fair to prolong its suffering. 

Inuka was the first polar bear to be born in the tropics on December 26, 1990. His name is Inuit for "Silent Stalker". The name was chosen through a nationwide naming contest, which received over 10,000 entries. He was born to much fanfare after his parents – Nanook and Sheba – were brought to Singapore in 1978. A third bear, Anana, joined Inuka's parents at the Singapore Zoo soon after. Inuka's father, Nanook, died in 1995 at the age of 18, while his mother, Sheba, died in 2012 at the age of 35, the second-oldest polar bear in the world then. Anana, a female polar bear, died in 1999.

WRS has reaffirmed that Inuka will be Singapore's last polar bear. This comes after the zoo announced in 2006 that it would not bring any more polar bears to Singapore, following discussions with its Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee ~ but was that a fairly ethical decision on the erstwhile marine mammals ?

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
25th Apr 2018.

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