Being separated from someone you care about is one of the worst feelings. You think about them constantly, wondering when you’ll be able to see them again. Well, humans aren’t the only ones that form such strong bonds. Polar bears do too. After being separated from her polar bear friend, Szenja, a captive polar bear, passed away at SeaWorld in San Diego this week.
The 21-year-old female had been without her friend Snowflake for two months after Snowflake, the only other polar bear at SeaWorld San Diego, was shipped to a zoo in Pittsburgh at the end of February for breeding purposes, with no return date. Szenja’s keepers said she had been showing signs of lethargy for a week and also lost her appetite. SeaWorld says that it could be several weeks before the cause of death is given, but let’s be honest, it’s pretty clear Szenja died of a broken heart.
Szenja has never known a life outside of captivity. She was born at a zoo in Germany in 1995 and then brought to Sea World two years later when the park opened its Wild Artic Exhibit. The average lifespan of polar bears in the wild is between 25-30 years and they are native to the arctic circle, where they have evolved to roam large sheets of ice, nothing like the climate in San Diego.
The next time you think of taking a trip to your local zoo, think again. Life for wild animals in zoos is stressful, boring and most of all, miserable. These animals have been stolen from the wild, dumped behind bars in concrete enclosures, sometimes even pumping the animals full of antidepressants, and then the animals are left to live out the rest of their lives in a place they’ll never be able to call home. To zoos, they are disposable, there solely to make a profit.
But progress is being made. In 2016, SeaWorld agreed to stop breeding captive orcas at all of its locations and in January of 2017, SeaWorld San Diego officially ended their orca performances, marking the last time a captive whale would be forced to perform mindless tricks in front of audiences at the park. With millions of people learning the truth about marine captivity, thanks in part to the documentary Blackfish, it’s only a matter of time before SeaWorld is a thing of the past.
The best thing you can do to help these animals in captivity is to avoid visiting SeaWorld and zoos altogether. Help us honor Szenja by sharing this article with your friends and family why they should reconsider going to the zoo. We must continue the fight to #EmptyTheTanks and help ensure wild animals stay in the wild.
Image source: Quad Finn/Twitter