Canberra’s National Zoo & Aquarium is in mourning after one of its oldest residents, Darkle the brown bear, passed away.
In a statement released on Thursday afternoon (13 September), the zoo said Darkle’s health had been deteriorating for the past few weeks and decided to put the elderly bear to rest.
“The welfare of our animals is always the priority and the difficult decision was made to ease her of any pain or discomfort,” the statement said.
Darkle was one of the zoo’s longest residents and represents the last of the original animals that helped establish the zoo nearly two decades ago.
The owner of the zoo, Richard Tindale, stumbled across Darkle and two other bears, Blondie and Big Fella, at a facility housing retired circus animals in 2000.
The enclosure was not tall enough for the bears to stand up straight so Mr Tindale took them in immediately. He spent the first night close by the bears after their road trip, making sure that they were okay.
The statement said keepers, volunteers and staff gave the bears the love and attention that they craved and they settled in well.
The bears became the zoo’s first residents and were followed by lions Kimba and Delilah, tigons Asta and Tangiere, tiger Torda and leopards Smokey and Zulu. They were all rescue animals from three different circuses, all who had spent most of their lives in trailers or circus rings.
“As sad as we felt (and now feel) when we lost each of those animals, we remember where they came from and the life they lived here,” the statement said.
“Without exception, every one of them enjoyed a very long and healthy retirement here. Darkle, Blondie and Big Fella were adored by our staff and visitors and we treasure the memories of the time they had with us.”
Announcing the loss on social media, the zoo thanked the staff who cared for and loved Darkle and asked the community to share memories and any photos they had of the beloved bear.
Darkle’s passing marks the second death of a popular zoo resident in the region, after Mogo Zoo reported that their beloved silverback gorilla, Kibabu, passed away suddenly in August.