December 11, 1989 ~ January 11, 2023
Kansas City Zoo: The Kansas City Zoo is mourning the loss of 33-year-old polar bear Berlin, who resided here for a decade. Berlin was the oldest polar bear in human care in the United States, and perhaps in North America, which is a testament to the extraordinary care she received from her animal care and veterinary health teams.
Berlin had been experiencing hypertension and renal failure, and treatment options had been exhausted so the difficult decision to euthanize her was made yesterday morning, January 11.
Berlin was born at the Cincinnati Zoo on December 11, 1989, just a little over a month after the Berlin Wall fell, so she was given her unique name honoring the event. In 2012, Berlin was residing at Lake Superior Zoo in
Duluth when it flooded, and famously swam to the perimeter wall of her habitat where she waited until staff arrived and discovered her. She was temporarily housed at Como Zoo in Saint Paul and arrived in Kansas City
from there in December 2012.
Even in her senior years, Berlin remained in fair health and her personality still shone. An inoperable mass in herb nasal cavity was found several years ago but seemed to bother her very little. For the past several months,
however, she had been treated for systemic hypertension, which was diagnosed using a copper-plate-based ECG built at the Zoo. She was also subsequently diagnosed with renal failure. Thanks to the years of training Berlin had done with her care specialists, she was a cooperative patient. While there was no cure, Zoo staff were able to make her more comfortable through various treatments.
Unfortunately, Berlin’s health had significantly declined yesterday morning, and it was determined there were no other additional medical options to improve her condition. She was euthanized surrounded by her caregivers.
The Association of Zoos & Aquariums notes that polar bears in AZA-accredited facilities have a median life expectancy of 23.4 years. According to the Zoo’s conservation partner Polar Bears International, polar bears live
an average of 15 to 18 years in the wild.
Berlin was a beloved ambassador for her species and helped contribute to research that has benefited the wild polar bear population. Her animal care specialists commended her big personality and described her as “smart
and sassy” and say she gave all of her caregivers “a run for their money!”
Berlin will be dearly missed by her Zoo family, including staff, volunteers, and guests.
The Kansas City Zoo will make its annual contribution from the Zoo’s Conservation Fund to Polar Bears International in memory of Berlin
this year to aid in conserving this amazing, vulnerable species and their habitat in the wild.