ISLAMABAD: A Himalayan brown bear that had been shifted to a sanctuary in Jordan from Islamabad last year has died of cancer.
“Islamabad Wildlife Management Board has some sad news to share. Suzie died after a valiant battle with cancer after her tumour returned unfortunately,” confirmed IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan.
In December last year, Suzie along with her male partner Bubloo had been shifted to a Four Paws bear sanctuary at Al Mawa in Jordan almost three weeks after the country’s only Asian elephant Kaavan was relocated to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia.
Ms Khan said Al Mawa and Four Paws experts were hopeful the brown bear would recover after she was moved to her new natural enclosure and given the best possible medical treatment. But her condition started to deteriorate.
“Unfortunately, surgery to remove the inflamed tumours couldn’t save her and she breathed her last this week. Vets say Suzie had a carcinoma (malignant breast cancer) with metastases combined with kidney dysfunction. May Suzie rest in peace in bear heaven,” said Ms Khan.
Suzie endured suffering the 18 years that she was alive, she said, explaining that Himalayan brown bears can live up to 35 years or more.
“Sold into bear baiting when Suzie was a cub, her misfortunes got worse after she was rescued and brought to Islamabad zoo, a facility known only for poor conditions where her life got even tougher,” she said.
At the Islamabad zoo, she endured poor diet, poorer healthcare in some of the worst living conditions for animals.
After her cub died from swallowing glass from a broken bottle tossed into the enclosure by a visitor, her health continued to deteriorate from the tumour. For over a year, Suzie lived with an open unhealed seven inches cut in her chest which the local vets had failed to close up after performing a surgery.
In the summer last year, the government sought help from the international animal welfare organisation, Four Paws, to assist with the suffering animals. In August 2020, for the first time in many years, Suzie received the professional attention that animals in captivity deserved - decent food, proper healthcare and handlers who even sang to her.
While no other bear sanctuary was ready to accept the two brown bears following Islamabad High Court’s orders, Four Paws shifted the bears to thousands of square feet of open space in Jordan where she was expected to recuperate.
The Ministry of Climate Change was reluctant to let the animals go, saying it would bring a bad name and no other country would ever give animals to Pakistan.
“The last two years of Suzie’s life were better. While Suzie is no more, Bubloo is keeping good health. He got the dental treatment he desperately needed and is doing well,” said Ms Khan.
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2021