Assiniboine Park Zoo polar bear dies during dental procedure

A female polar bear living at Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg has died during a dental procedure while under anesthesia.

The zoo confirmed that nine-year-old polar bear Aurora died on Tuesday.

“It’s always very sad when we lose animals at the zoo and in this particular case, it was even more challenging under the circumstances that she passed away,” said Grant Furniss, the zoo’s senior director of zoological operations.

According to the zoo, Aurora experienced recurring dental issues since she was rescued and transferred to the zoo as a cub in 2013. She was initially found wandering around the Churchill Airport alone when she was about a year old.

The zoo said it believes her teeth were damaged from eating rocks and sticks in an attempt to survive without her mother.

According to Furniss, Aurora had several dental procedures previously to relieve her pain, treat infection and prevent her tooth problems from evolving into life-threatening issues.

Tuesday’s procedure was performed under anesthesia and with the assistance of a specialized veterinary dentist, the zoo said.

Assiniboine Park Zoo’s senior director of zoological operations Grant Furniss confirmed details of Aurora’s death at a news conference Thursday.

According to the zoo, the procedure went well but as the team was preparing to reverse the anesthesia, Aurora went into cardiac arrest.

“The veterinary team did absolutely everything they could to bring her back but unfortunately, she passed away,” Furniss said.

Furniss said while further testing will be done, preliminary investigations into an underlying condition or cause of death are inconclusive.

“We will pursue it and try to find out exactly what happened to Aurora,” Furniss said.

The zoo said Aurora was an assertive, strong-willed bear who could often be spotted snuggling and spending her time with Kaska, another female bear, and took a protective role with Willow, the zoo’s youngest female cub.

“Aurora was a very loved bear, and she brought joy to so many hundreds of thousands of people who came in and out of the zoo,” Furniss said.

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