Commentary: What next after our outpouring of polar bear grief?
In human years, Inuka lived well into its 70s – and well past the 25-year average lifespan of polar bears under human care. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)
SINGAPORE: There was barely a dry eye among the 400 people who gathered on Thursday (Apr 26) to celebrate the passing of a life, as eulogies were delivered.“For the past 27 years, he has brought not just smiles to our keepers and Singapore Zoo staff. He also brought lots of smiles to the millions of visitors,” a speaker said.“Our Inuka may be an old bear, but he was a good boy … our good boy.”
Ahead of the memorial for Singapore Zoo staff to pay their respects to Singapore’s last polar bear, a bouquet of orchids was placed on the rock Inuka used to spend time on.A wall has been erected for members of the public to place tributes.Online, news that Inuka had been put down on humane grounds on Wednesday morning had already sparked off a wave of outpouring from netizens by mid-day.
surrounded by all his keepers who care deeply about him”, said Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, the chief life sciences officer and deputy CEO of WRS.
He had lived to a ripe old age, beyond the average life expectancy of 15 to 18 years of polar bears in the wild and 25 years in captivity.So there’s no reason to feel sad for him.Understanding how we feel and whether our reactions are warranted when reading sad stories like Inuka’s is useful for a few reasons, including to temper unhealthy reactions to address emotions that arise.Consumerism may be one. A few companies have already capitalised on this news to opportunistically launch new polar bear paraphernalia.
Homeware retailer Iuiga has upset fans of Inuka the polar bear by naming a porcelain tea set after the animal. (Photo: Facebook/Iuiga)
INVEST IN RELATIONSHIPSIf anything, the news of Inuka’s passing and the online reactions should force us to realise that life must be more than how we feel about zoo animals passing on.It should renew in us an effort to connect with the people we care about, and even those we don’t.It should serve to encourage us to focus on investing in our relationships, and building new ones with those we should.It should spur us to spend quality time with our family this weekend, or encourage us to get to know the neighbour we see every morning.Such actions may not be the sexy Facebook post that will generate likes but it’s what will make for an enriching, well-lived life.An attachment to a polar bear at the zoo is no substitute for a deeper relationship with our loved ones.
Lin Suling is executive editor at Channel NewsAsia Digital News where she oversees the Commentary section.