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NC Zoo polar bear dies

Posted September 10, 2013

Aquila at the N.C. Zoo in May 2013

— North Carolina Zoo officials said Tuesday that, for the second time in a week, an iconic animal has died at the Asheboro zoo.

Aquila, a 21-year-old male polar bear, was found dead in his off-exhibit holding quarters when keepers arrived for work around 7 a.m.

General curator Ken Reininger said Aquila had shown no previous signs of illness and appeared in good condition when keepers left Monday evening.

Zoo Senior Veterinarian Dr. Ryan DeVoe said Aquila had suffered from a “diaphragmatic hernia.” Part of the stomach had become entrapped in the hernia, causing the stomach to rupture, he said, which led to the animal's lungs collapsing.

Aquila's death comes one week after the zoo lost its adult male gorilla, Nkosi, to a yet-to-be identified illness. The zoo is still awaiting laboratory test results to help determine the gorilla’s cause of death.

Aquila was one of a set of triplet polar bears – two males and a female – that became the first bears to be exhibited in the N.C. Zoo’s polar bear exhibit when it opened as part of the zoo’s new 200-acre North America exhibit region in August 1994. Both of the siblings died previously.

He had returned to the N.C. Zoo in April after a two-year stay at the Detroit Zoo. He and the zoo’s other male polar bear, Wilhelm, had been sent to other zoos two years ago as the zoo began an $8.5 million renovation and expansion of its polar bear exhibit.

Wilhelm remains at the Milwaukee Zoo and no decision on the timing of his return has been made. Construction on the expanded exhibit is expected to be complete in fall 2014.


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  • britsturtevant Sep 11, 2013

    it is probably because NC is not the arctic. They took the animal out of his natural habitat.

  • dwntwnboy2 Sep 11, 2013

    The bear was almost 20 years old. Is that old for a polar bear? Maybe it was just his time, his other siblings have since past on as well. Sorry they lost such a beautiful animal.

  • ncteacher22 Sep 10, 2013

    Sadly there are some crazy folks on here who will say just about anything on any subject whether they have any knowledge on the subject or not. It is very sad that the zoo lost these two magnificent animals in such a short period of time. However, animals die every day, all over the world. It is called the cycle of life. These two deaths can not be blamed on the zoo keepers. Purchasing and/or breeding these animals is beyond expensive. You can be sure if the zookeepers had any idea that either animal was ill, they would have tried to move Heaven and Earth to save them. The Asheboro zoo is amazing and we are lucky to have it so close by.

  • Inside The Beltline Sep 10, 2013

    This zoo has won international acclaim. The issue why people don't like it is because people want to see an animal up close in a box only separated by glass. Being a veterinarian has to be one of the toughest jobs in the world. To anyone saying animals look undernourished, if you can see an animals rib cage, that usually means it is a healthy weight. Same goes for humans believe it or not.

  • WralCensorsAreBias Sep 10, 2013


  • cynicaljill Sep 10, 2013

    Until you work as a zookeeper I dont know how you can diagnose and animal that YOU do not know as hungry or restless.
    Thats like me going to your house and saying your dog was aggressive because it had its mouth open.
    They may not have as many animals, but do you know the reasons why? A zoo is not as simple as you think. You cant simply "buy" a polar bear and if you can... I know majority of zoos that are accredited wouldnt do it.

  • FlyingUnderTheRadar Sep 10, 2013


  • zenonx6 Sep 10, 2013

    Yeah,, that diaphragm rupture is a bad way to go. Poor guy.

  • mcorson2 Sep 10, 2013

    oh man:(

  • RaleighNCGuy Sep 10, 2013

    Global warming.