A polar bear at SeaWorld in San Diego has died after her same-sex companion of 20 years was moved elsewhere.
Snowflake, 22, was relocated to the Pittsburgh Zoo in order to breed more polar bears, leaving behind her long time partner Szenja, 21.
Animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said it had urged SeaWorld three months ago not to separate the animals, who have spent almost all of their lives together.
The organisation believes that Szenja died “of a broken heart”, explaining: “Szenja did what anyone would do when they lose all hope, she gave up.”
The organisation revealed it had been approached by a marine-mammal expert who was concerned about plans to separate the bears. It then sent a letter to SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby, urging him to stop the move.
Manby ignored the request and two month after Snowflake was moved to Pittsburgh, Szenja was dead. Following the relocation, she displayed signs of separation anxiety, depression and loss of appetite.
The organisation has slammed the practice of keeping polar bears in captivity and breeding them for what it says are commercial purposes.
“Any resulting baby polar bears would be sentenced to a miserable existence in enclosures that are one millionth the size of their minimum home range in the wild,” said PETA. It also noted that there is a 65 percent infant-mortality rate for captive polar bears.
“This should be a wake-up call to SeaWorld. Stop breeding and shipping animals around, close the animal exhibits, and retire the animals to sanctuaries,” insisted PETA.
SeaWorld has made headlines in the past for its appalling treatment of its captive killer whales. It has not yet given a reason for Szenja’s death. The results of an autopsy may take several weeks.
Below is a video of Snowflake and Szenja in happier times.