Polar bear 'dies of a broken heart' after being separated from 'best friend' by SeaWorld
A female polar bear "died from a broken heart" at SeaWorld San Diego on Tuesday, just months after her best friend of 20 years was transferred to another zoo, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Szenja, a 21-year-old polar bear born in Germany's Wuppertal Zoo in October 1995, has lived alongside her best friend, Snowflake, since SeaWorld opened its Wild Arctic exhibit in 1997.
Over the course of their 20 years sharing the same habitat, the two females are said to have developed a deep friendship.
In early February, SeaWorld's announced it would send Snowflake to the Pittsburgh Zoo to breed with a male polar bear named Koda, according to KSWB.
PETA immediately spoke out against the plan to separate the two bears, saying it would have devastating effects on Szenja.
"We urge you to cancel this cruel plan, which would leave Snowflake's companion of 20 years, Szenja, sad and alone and would also sentence any cubs who are born subsequently to a lifetime of confinement for public display," said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in a letter to the CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
PETA's warning went unheeded, and the two polar bears were ultimately separated at the end of February.
Over the past week, caregivers and veterinary staff began to notice that Szenja had lost her appetite and energy, according to NBC San Diego.
Although staff continued to closely monitor her condition, Szenja unfortunately passed away on April 18.
Following her unexpected death, PETA released a statement slamming the organization for creating the circumstances they believe led to her demise.
"Szenja died of a broken heart, PETA believes," said Tracy Remain, executive vice president of PETA, in a statement.
SeaWorld San Diego also spoke out about the bear's tragic death, saying Szenja was a "beloved member of our animal family, so this is a very difficult day for all of us."
"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," said Al Garver, SeaWorld San Diego's vice president of zoological operations, in a statement.
"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."
A necropsy will reportedly be performed to help determine Szenja's cause of death.