WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Debby, the world's oldest polar bear, has died — just one month shy of her 42nd birthday.
She was euthanized Monday after suffering multiple strokes and organ failure, officials at Winnipeg, Manitoba's Assiniboine Park Zoo said Tuesday.
Her keepers and admirers laid flowers by her empty enclosure Tuesday as they tearfully remembered her majesty.
"Debby was a great bear," said Jos Gatien, the zoo's senior bear keeper who worked with Debby for 13 years. "She acted like a grumpy old bear a lot of times. It was great. She had a lot of life in her, a lot of feistiness."
Debby was born in the Arctic islands of Russia and came to Winnipeg a year later, in 1967.
While most polar bears live into the 30s in captivity, she became a fixture at the zoo, outliving her mate Skipper and giving birth to six cubs.
Just this year she was recognized as the oldest living polar bear by the Guinness Book of World Records.
But her longevity took its toll. A series of strokes left her disoriented and with some facial paralysis. Although the situation was controlled for the last two years with medication, she began to deteriorate over the summer and the decision was made to put her down after she quit eating over the weekend.
"It was very difficult. Debby has been a longtime member here at the zoo. She's been here longer than any of the employees. Everybody that works here has got to know her very well," said Glover.
Debby's guardians will decide what to do with her remains. Skipper, her mate of 32 years, had his ashes scattered near Churchill, Manitoba, on Hudson Bay when he died in 1999.
Robert Buchanan, president of Polar Bears International, praised Debby as "an Arctic ambassador of polar bears to the world."
"We'll miss her," he said.