Bear necessities: cooler home for S. Korea's last polar bear

June 21, 2018
South Korea's last captive polar bear, a 23-year-old male named Tongki, is set to swap the country's stifling, humid summers for the cooler surroundings of a wildlife park in Britain

The last polar bear kept in South Korea will be sent to Britain to escape the country's stifling, humid summers and live out his days in more appropriate surroundings, zookeepers said Thursday.

Tongki—a 23-year-old male named after a Japanese cartoon character of the 1980s—lives in a 330-square-metre (3500-square-foot) concrete enclosure at the Everland theme outside Seoul.

Born in captivity at a zoo in the southern city of Masan, Tongki is the only polar bear in South Korea and has been living alone in Everland since his last fellow resident died three years ago.

As temperatures inched towards 30 degrees Celsius Thursday, Tongki cooled off in a pool while zookeepers threw him fish to eat.

This November he will be moved to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park in the north of England.

The park boasts a 40,000-square-metre polar bear reserve designed to replicate the animals' Arctic summer habitat, complete with several lakes.

"I just hope he spends his last years in greater happiness and a better environment," keeper Lee Kwang-hee told AFP, holding back tears.

Four polar bears already live at the Yorkshire park—Victor, Pixel, Nissan and Nobby—although whether Tongki joins them will depend on whether they accept him.

Everland said Tongki will not be replaced, and other South Korean zoos have no plans to import the animals, which are classed as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of endangered species.

Animal rights activists in South Korea, who have long urged zoos not to keep polar bears, welcomed Everland's decision.

"For , spending the hot summer in this country is very torturous," campaign group Care said in a statement.

"If he were a man, Tongki would be in his eighties. He has lived life alone without family or friends for too long."

Explore further: Webcam tracks 3-month-old polar bear's development

Related Stories

Polar bear dies at South African zoo

January 15, 2014

One of South Africa's two polar bears has died at the Johannesburg Zoo, leaving its mate now believed to be the only polar bear in Africa, a veterinarian said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Engineering cellular function without living cells

March 25, 2019

Genes in living cells are activated – or not – by proteins called transcription factors. The mechanisms by which these proteins activate certain genes and deactivate others play a fundamental role in many biological processes. ...

What ionized the universe?

March 25, 2019

The sparsely distributed hot gas that exists in the space between galaxies, the intergalactic medium, is ionized. The question is, how? Astronomers know that once the early universe expanded and cooled enough, hydrogen (its ...

Catalyst advance removes pollutants at low temperatures

March 25, 2019

Researchers at Washington State University, University of New Mexico, Eindhoven University of Technology, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a catalyst that can both withstand high temperatures and convert ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.