Polar Beverages sends it's deepest condolences to the EcoTarium in Worcester MA for the loss of Kenda the polar bear, who passed away on June 13th. Kenda, like Orson the Polar mascot has been a staple in the city of Worcester for the past 27 years. Kenda will be greatly missed.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Kenda, polar bear loved by kids, was connection to the wild

WORCESTER — Kenda, the polar bear that was a mainstay of attractions at the EcoTarium since she was born there 27 years ago, was euthanized yesterday, according to the science museum.


Jennifer Kent, director of marketing at the EcoTarium, said the bear, born at the museum on Dec. 1, 1983, had developed a kidney disease and her heath had declined. The bear was euthanized around noon, she said.


Ms. Kent said that last fall, the bear developed a sore on her leg. She had a medical procedure and healed well, but tests revealed the onset of a kidney disease.


According to the EcoTarium, Kenda's medical and care staff have monitored her closely for months, conducting daily visual exams and working to ensure she was eating properly.


About three weeks ago, her health started to decline. A few days ago, she got worse. Further tests were planned, but after a physical exam yesterday, the decision was made to euthanize her, Ms. Kent said.


"The exam followed a recent and worrisome change in appetite, weight and behavior for the 27-year-old bear," the EcoTarium said in a statement. "Due to the rapid deterioration of her health and her bleak prognosis, the decision was made to humanely euthanize Kenda."


Kenda was born at the museum to Ursa Minor and Ursa Major, two polar bears brought in 1971 to what was then called the Worcester Science Center from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado. The museum's image for many years was closely identified with the bear.


She remained unnamed at first while the science center ran a contest to select her name. Some 5,000 entries poured in.


The winning suggestion, submitted by Kathy Grimley of Boylston, reportedly meant "child of clear, cool water."


Contacted at her Boylston home last night, Ms. Grimley said she was very sorry to hear of the bear's death. She said winning the contest was a lovely time in her family's life, and said she'll always have wonderful, happy memories of it. She said her children were 6 and 9 years old at the time and the polar bear was one of the biggest attractions at the science center. It was big news for the city at the time that a polar bear was born here, she said.


"We've gone back many times, when the kids were still young, and on occasion after that I've taken my grandniece," Ms. Grimley said. "It was delightful to be there with a new generation."


The contest was a big deal back then, she said, and her family had fun with all the publicity.


"We were thrilled to win a VCR," she said. "It was probably one of the first in the area. It was such a big deal."


Ms. Grimley said her daughters also entered names into the contest.


"I found the name in a baby book," Ms. Grimley said. "It said it meant ‘child of cool, clear water,' and I thought it was perfect."


Over the years, a wildlife team of five people and museum staff cared for Kenda, and her veterinary care was managed by experts at the Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton.


Ms. Kent said a somber mood was cast over the EcoTarium yesterday.


"We're very shaken up," Ms. Kent said. "There are a lot of tears."


Ms. Kent said that in the wild, polar bears can live from 15 to 18 years. Recent studies put the life span of polar bears in captivity at an average of 18 years, she said.


Stephen Pitcher, president of the EcoTarium, said last night that Kenda was a member of the museum's family and was there longer than many people who work there.


He said that beyond the obvious — that there was a polar bear at a museum in the city — there were several reasons the 130,000 annual visitors to the EcoTarium flocked to her habitat, which included a lower-level glass wall where visitors could view her swimming underwater.


"I think it was because she was born here," Mr. Pitcher said last night. "She lived her whole life here."


He said she was a "bit of a ham" sometimes, and staff enjoyed their daily interactions with her.


"One thing was training," he said. "What they would do is they would go down there and have her perform certain activities. She would come close to the door, and they would use a pointer, and have her open her mouth. She would open her mouth, they would use a clicker and give her a fish. They would have her put her paws up on bars, and look at her paws, and click the clicker and give her a fish. It was aimed at us being able to get a better look at her, but for her it was also exercise and mental stimulation."


Mr. Pitcher said he made the decision to euthanize Kenda. He said that in recent months she had lost around 200 pounds — more a third of her body weight, he said. There was no significant chance for recovery, he said. She was taken to Tufts, and will be cremated, he said.


Mr. Pitcher said the Eco-Tarium will be open for visitors as usual today. A book will be set up inside the EcoTarium for people to sign and share memories, and signs at the museum center and at Kenda's exhibit will inform visitors what happened and direct them to the book, he said.


Ms. Kent said the museum is inviting the community to share memories and condolences at the museum and on the museum's Facebook page.


There are no immediate plans to house another polar bear at the EcoTarium, he said.


While staff had been monitoring Kenda's condition, the rapid deterioration of her health took many at the museum by surprise, Mr. Pitcher said.


"This really came upon us awfully quick," Mr. Pitcher said. "A couple months ago I would have said she would have been with us for several more years."


Coincidentally, Ida, a polar bear at the Central Park Zoo in New York, was euthanized June 3 at age 25.


She had been there since 1987 after being born at the Buffalo Zoo upstate. Ida had been suffering from a cancer-related liver disease.


She and her male companion, Gus, were that zoo's oldest couple.

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