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SF Zoo’s only polar bear dies

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Uulu the polar bear. (Courtesy Marianne Hale)

The beloved polar bear “Uulu,” one of the oldest polar bears in captivity, died Friday at the San Francisco Zoo at age 36, zoo officials announced.

Uulu, San Francisco Zoo’s only polar bear, died after experiencing rapidly declining health due to congestive heart failure and her age. The 545-pound creature was one of the oldest polar bears that lived in a facility under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which represents more than 230 institutions throughout the world.

Polar bears in the wild have an average lifespan of 15 to 18 years, although a few are known to have lived into their early 30s. In captivity, they reach their mid- to late 30s.

“We are all tremendously saddened by the passing of our polar bear. She was an amazing animal ambassador and helped to educate millions of visitors over the years about polar bear conservation,” Tanya M. Peterson, president of the San Francisco Zoo, said in a statement. “Uulu was well-known by many Zoo guests and she will be missed by all who connected with, and cared for her over the years.”

The San Francisco Zoo rescued Uulu when she was about 3 years old from Canada, where she, her siblings and mom were local “problem bears.” According to the Zoo, they were caught multiple times foraging at the local dump and even tryng to enter a home.

Plans are in place to design and build a new polar bear facility on the west end of the property. “The arctic tundra habitat would include plunge pools and opportunities for animals to see and smell the ocean,” reads a statement from the Zoo.

On special “snow days” at the Zoo — most recently on Nov. 11, 2016 — Uulu could be seen rolling and sliding in tons of snow that was blown into her habitat.

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