After 20 years of living at SeaWorld, 21-year-old polar bear Szenja died from what many are believing to be a case of heartbreak.
Szenja had been kept in an enclosure with another female polar bear named Snowflake since the exhibit opened. At the end of February, Snowflake was sent away for breeding in Pittsburgh and, quickly after, Szenja began showing signs of what many of us would consider depression: lack of appetite and energy. April 18, a week after her symptoms started being monitored, Szenja was found dead in her exhibit, the Daily Mail reported.
Szenja and Snowflake had been a dynamic duo at San Deigo's SeaWorld since the park opened in 1997. Szenja was originally born in a zoo in Germany in 1995, where she stayed until she was brought to the park in sunny California two years later. Snowflake arrived the same year. The two had never been separated. Even when Snowflake was sent to Pittsburgh in 2014, Szenja accompanied her on the trip.
The two brilliantly white bears caused commotion in March when SeaWorld announced their plans to separate the two buddies for Snowflake to be bred again in Pittsburgh, with no return date made public, KNSD reported.
Tens of thousands of people signed a Care2 petition asking SeaWorld to not separate the pair, who had never been apart in 20 years. Bur regardless of over 55,000 signatories, SeaWorld sent Snowflake away.
Executive Vice President of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Tracy Remain released a statement after the death of Szenja claiming the polar bear died of a broken heart.
"After losing her companion of 20 years when SeaWorld shipped Snowflake to the Pittsburgh Zoo in order to breed more miserable polar bears, Szenja did what anyone would do when they lose all hope, she gave up. 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," Remain said.
SeaWorld Vice President Al Garver also spoke out on Szenja's sudden death, the Daily Mail reported.
"Szenja was a beloved member of our animal family, so this is a very difficult day for all of us," he said.
"Szenja not only touched the hearts of those who have cared for her over the last two decades, but also the millions of guests who had the chance to see her in person. We're proud to have been a part of her life and to know that she inspired people from around the world to want to protect polar bears in the wild," he added.
Garver added that at 21 years old, Szenja had already surpassed the average lifespan of a wild polar bear, which is 18 years.
Alternatively, while in captivity, polar bears can live for 20 to 30 years.
Szenja's body is being sent in for an autopsy that will hopefully unveil the true cause of her death.