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Beloved ABQ BioPark polar bear Koluk, passes away at 26 years old.

He and brother Kiska have enjoyed a long life at the ABQ BioPark.

May 26, 2023

Staff at the ABQ BioPark are heartbroken at the loss of Koluk, a 26-year-old polar bear who has been in their care since 1997. Koluk was humanely euthanized on May 26 after his health rapidly declined this week. 

The median life expectancy for a polar bear is 20.8 years in human care and only 15-18 years in the wild. Koluk was diagnosed with heart disease during a routine medical exam in 2019, and the condition was managed successfully with daily medication. However, in recent days, the animal care staff observed a lack of appetite, sluggishness and stiffness. BioPark veterinarians performed a full exam on May 19. During the procedure, veterinary staff discovered severe liver and kidney disease. 

Over the course of the last week, the animal care staff provided supportive care to Koluk. Additional testing showed a progression of disease, and staff made the decision to humanely euthanize Koluk on May 26.

"Koluk was one of the most playful animals at the BioPark, and he was a favorite among guests and staff," said Casey Taylor, ABQ BioPark assistant mammal curator. "We are so fortunate to have cared for Koluk, and we are heartbroken with this loss."

Koluk’s playful demeanor was constant throughout his life, including his geriatric years. Despite his age, he maintained his fondness for diving into the pool to catch fish and ice treats. He also continued to perfect his skill of throwing large enrichment items up and over the walls of his habitat. Throughout his life, he developed deep levels of trust with the animal care team, which enabled him to voluntarily participate in his own health care. This included eye and ear exams, body condition checks, vaccinations and more. This relationship was a key component of his robust health and long life.

Koluk's twin brother Kiska is in good health and remains active in his habitat. He received extra attention from the animal care team and adjusted well as a solitary bear during Koluk’s illness.

Koluk and Kiska were born in November 1996 in Utah's Hogle Zoo. They have lived at the ABQ BioPark since October 1997. 

View a short video released earlier this week of Koluk and Kiska, including when they were cubs, moving to the ABQ BioPark, and some highlights of their lives.

MEDIA: Additional b-roll is available here. Please note that the footage of the Koluk and Kiska as cubs is from KUTV in Salt Lake City, Utah.

ABQ BioPark staff will be available today, Friday May 26, from 3:30 - 4:00 p.m. at the ABQ BioPark Zoo for additional a-roll if desired.