5 fun facts about Singapore Zoo's Inuka, the first polar bear born in the tropics

Singapore-born Inuka was given a birthday "cake" made of ice blocks, whipped cream and fruits such as watermelon, kiwis, strawberries and apples.
Singapore-born Inuka was given a birthday "cake" made of ice blocks, whipped cream and fruits such as watermelon, kiwis, strawberries and apples. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Celebrations have started for Singapore-born Inuka who will be turning 25 on Dec 26.

The 10-day birthday celebration includes a photo exhibition about the arctic habitat of polar bears, which was launched on Wednesday (Dec 16).

The exhibition highlights the threat climate change poses to the Arctic ecosystems and to polar bears.

It was developed by the Natural History Museum of Denmark in collaboration with the governments of Greenland and Faroe Islands for the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

At the launch, the Singapore-born Inuka was given a birthday "cake" made of ice blocks, whipped cream and fruits such as watermelon, kiwis, strawberries and apples. 

Born in 1990 at the Singapore Zoo in the early hours of December 26, the zookeepers called Inuka their "best Christmas present".

Though he won't be considered for the pioneer package, Inuka is well into his senior years. Polar bears live an average of 15 to 18 years, although biologists have tagged a few bears in their early 30s.

According to Polar Bears International, the animals may live till their mid to late 30s in captivity.

Here are five other fun facts about polar bear Inuka.


1. His name


Inuka responding to his trainers' call to stand and wave in a behind-the-scenes shoot on May 28, 2013. ST PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR

Inuka is Inuit for "Silent Stalker". The name was chosen through a nationwide naming contest, which recieved over 10,000 entries. Other entries included Arctos and Shardik.

2. His lineage


Inuka, with his mother Sheba, when he was less than a year old. PHOTO: SINGAPORE ZOO

Born on Dec 26, 1990, Inuka's parents were from countries far from hot and humid Singapore. His mother Sheba arrived from Germany when she was 14 months old, while his father, Nanook, came from Canada.

3. His home


Inuka swims in his pool in a photo taken on May 28, 2013. ST PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR

His current enclosure costs $8 million. His home, with much-needed space, is about the size of 2½ basketball courts and includes a large pool, waterfall and an ice cave.

Originally found in the Arctic, polar bears in the wild have been known to cover miles on foot, even running on land.

Researchers have even tracked wild females swimming long distances, covering up to 354km in ten days. Inuka would have to make more than 2000 rounds of his enclosure to cover that distance.

4. His weight


Visitors to the Singapore Zoo get up close to take photos of Inuka the polar bear on May 29, 2013. ST PHOTO: RAJ NADARAJAN

Though he weighed only 450 grams when he was born, Inuka currently tips the scales at 550kg, slightly higher than the average weight of an adult male polar bear. According to Polar Bears International, the largest polar bear ever recorded was a male weighing 1002kg!

5. His diet


A bucket of mackerel prepared for Inuka in a photo taken on May 28, 2013. ST PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR

Though polar bears hunt and feed on seals in the wild (for their blubber), Inuka is fed meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables. The big mammal eats nearly 30kg of food a day.

melheng@sph.com.sg