The UK’s oldest polar bear has died at Yorkshire Wildlife Park after a short illness.
Victor, 22, became ill on Friday and “despite the best efforts of the veterinary team” had to be euthanised after being diagnosed with terminal kidney failure.
The park, where Victor had lived since 2014, said he was “a great ambassador” for his species, inspiring generations and drawing attention to the plight of polar bears in the wild and the climate crisis.
“He will be greatly missed by everyone,” the park said in a statement.
Victor was born at Rostock zoo in Germany before being moved to Rhenen in the Netherlands. He was a member of the European breeding programme until 2014 when he was rehomed to Yorkshire for his “retirement”.
During his time in the breeding programme, he fathered 13 cubs and has many grandchildren around the world.
“Victor spent his days enjoying the lakes and expansive habitat in Project Polar, one of the largest reserves in the world,” the park directors said.
Over the past five years, he had been joined by four other polar bears: Pixel, Nissan, Nobby and, most recently, Rasputin. They are the only polar bears in England. The only other polar bears in the UK live in the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland.
The park’s directors thanked the vets who “responded so quickly” when Victor fell ill and paid tribute to the “dedicated staff who have loved and cared for Victor” since his arrival and while he was ill.
One of Victor’s fans, Sarah Sanders, said on Facebook: “We always looked for Victor when we came – he was a favourite. [He was] such a gentle giant. YWP you’ve given him a wonderful life there. Condolences to all of his keepers.”