Dudley Zoo's black bear Inca dies aged 38
Dudley Zoo's 38-year-old 'beloved' Asiatic black bear Inca has died, bosses have confirmed.
Inca passed away on Thursday night, holding the title of the oldest known Asiatic black bear in Europe.
She was Dudley Zoo's last Asiatic black bear, also known as the moon bear and the white-chested bear.
Inca had outlived the typical life expectancy of her species by more than a decade, Dudley Zoo confirmed. The typical life expectancy for a wild Asiatic black bear is 25 years.
Inca was described as a 'much-loved' animal by staff at Dudley Zoo, who 'continued to astound' keepers as she sailed through her annual health checks.
She came to Dudley Zoo from Cumbria in 1990 with her mother Winnie and older sister Gretel.
The siblings were moved to Glasgow in 1997, before returning to Dudley in 2003 – where they lived together until Greta's death 10 years ago, in 2009.
A typically solitary species, Inca had continued to thrive on her own after he sister's death and staff said that in her later years she loved to soak up the sunshine in her outdoor enclosure. Keepers would often treat her with sugar-free jams including mixed fruit and strawberry and apple sauce – but her favourite was peanut butter and honey.
Inca had been a popular animal among visitor adoptions at the Castle Hill attraction and she even had corporate sponsorship. Staff from the Build-a-Bear workshop at intu Merry Hill, in Brierley Hill adopted the female last year, and members of Birmingham-based football club Shire Oak Bears had Inca as their mascot.
Inca would go into a semi-hibernation, or a period of torpor, in her den between around November and March – but had been known to make an appearance if it was a particularly mild winter’s day. Staff said you could often hear her snoring away in her den – which was often so loud, you could hear her from outside.
She had been coming out of her den over the last few weeks, before she passed away on Thursday, leaving staff and visitors to Dudley Zoo devastated.
Bosses at Dudley Zoo announced Inca's sad death on Friday morning.
Richard Brown, the zoo's curator, said: "Inca was very special to Dudley Zoological Gardens and had outlived the typical life expectancy of her species by more than a decade.
“As she got older she continued to astound keepers and veterinary staff year-on-year as she flew through annual health checks.
“She was much-loved by staff and visitors and we were delighted to allow her to live out her twilight years in comfort. She will be missed.”
People took to Dudley Zoo's Facebook page to pay tribute to Inca and share their memories of seeing her at Dudley Zoo over the years.
Sharon Eddowes said: "My favourite old lady. Always paid her a visit and loved seeing her, nose in the air, sniffing every scent as she relaxed in the sunshine. Bless you Inca, we will miss you."
Ann Staniland said: "RIP Inca. We only saw you last week and thought how lovely and healthy you looked. We will miss you."
Ellie Hadlington said: "My thoughts are with you all at this devastating time. She was a beautiful girl and was adored by all who saw her.
"She clearly had the best possible care due to her very old age so you should all be so proud of yourselves for keeping her so healthy and content for so long."
Julie Murray added: "Rest in peace beautiful Inca. The first animal I adopted for my husband. We enjoyed going to visit her and we didn't mind if she was inside and we didn't see her on every visit.
"But on the rare occasion that she was outside she always made us smile. Many were amazed at how old she was. You all looked after her so well, which contributed to her record breaking age. We will miss her lots."
Earlier this year, Dudley Zoo announced plans to bring back European brown bears to the attraction, for the first time in 40 years. Bosses have opened talks with a zoo in Slovakia which cares for orphaned bears about bringing in a breeding group of three or four European brown bears.
They are expected to arrive next year to join the wide selection of animals living at the zoo.
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