July 17, 2017 4:25 pm

Trauma investigated as cause for polar bear death at Assiniboine Park Zoo

Eli arrived to the zoo as a cub with his brother in October 2015.

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Officials at Assiniboine Park Zoo are beginning the testing process, to determine the cause of death of a two-year-old polar bear Saturday.

The cub, Eli, started showing concerning symptoms on Friday, and was anesthetized a day later to give vets a chance to see what was wrong.

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“It was a very quick progression. From Thursday he was normal, to Saturday where he was to the point where we really needed to get involved,” Chris Enright, head of veterinary services at the zoo said.

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Eli died shortly after being put under the anesthesia. Initial results from an animal autopsy show swelling in the bear’s throat and neck. Vets are looking into possibilities that may have caused the swelling. Enright said some sort of trauma may have been a factor.

“Something like trauma is a possibility. We’re investigating that, looking at footage from the days leading up to this,” he said.

Enright would not rule out a sickness or infection, though he said it is unlikely at this point. He said there are no concerns for the health of other animals at the zoo.

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“At this point the indications are not supporting anything that would pose a threat to other animals.”

A full report on Eli’s death will be complete within two weeks.

Animal rights group, Zoo Check, said the province should revisit a surrogacy program, returning polar bears to the wild with another mother.

“They’re supposed to be providing what they say is a very safe environment for these animals. If this animal suffered a trauma, or got into something in the environment, which is unsafe for him, that’s a serious problem,” campaigns director for Zoo Check, Julie Woodyer said.

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