Mystery as beloved polar bear dies suddenly at San Diego SeaWorld

Szenja, 21, passes away week after keepers noted loss of appetite and energy

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The Independent US

A beloved polar bear has died unexpectedly at SeaWorld in San Diego, just weeks after its companion was moved to a zoo.

Szenja was a 21-year-old female. The park says she died Tuesday.

Caregivers said she has had a loss of appetite and energy for about a week.

A necropsy is planned, but the park says it could be several weeks before the cause of her death is known.

Szenja was born at a zoo in Germany in 1995. Two years later, she was brought to SeaWorld when the park opened its Wild Arctic exhibit.

SeaWorld's only other polar bear, a female named Snowflake, was shipped to Pittsburgh zoo at the end of February. The two had been kept in the same enclosure since 1997.

Thousands of people had signed a petition to keep the two together. Tracy Remain, PETA executive vice president, told NBC: "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.

"Until it does, this ship will keep sinking." 

Polar bears can live about 18 years in the wild and 20 to 30 years or more in captivity.

The oldest polar bear in the United States, a female called Uulu, died last Friday at the San Francisco Zoo. She was 36.