From a just released NC Zoo media advisory:
"Masha, one of two polar bears that came to the North Carolina Zoo in November 2002 after being confiscated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) from a circus traveling in Puerto Rico, was euthanized today after exploratory surgery revealed extensive abnormalities
that had kept him in constant pain and suffering.
"Years of malnutrition and deplorable living conditions while being kept by the circus are thought to have initiated and exacerbated the bear’s deteriorating health, according to zoo veterinary staff.
"Masha was one of six polar bears confiscated by UDFWS in 2002 from the Suarez Brothers Circus in southern Puerto Rico and one of two that was given a new home at the N.C. Zoo. A USFWS investigation uncovered alleged violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which resulted in the bears’ confiscation.
"The other confiscated polar bears went to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash., and to the Detroit Zoo.
"Exploratory surgery this morning revealed gastric ulcers, bladder and kidney infections, pneumonia and other physical problems. The surgery additionally revealed that he was suffering neurological problems that had rendered him unable to walk or even stand. He had stopped eating more than a week ago.
"“The (N.C. Zoo) polar bear keepers devoted all the time and energy required to give this bear the quality of life he'd missed out on for most of his life,” said N.C. Zoo Curator of Mammals Lorraine Smith. “This loss is especially difficult for them.”
"Although no official records exist for Masha prior to his arrival, zoo officials believe that he was about 24 years old. But Smith said that that age could be deceiving when considering how he was forced to live for those years before arriving at the zoo and that his overall health would suggest a much older bear.
"In 2002, prior to the bears’ confiscation, bear experts had made several trips to Puerto Rico to evaluate the six bears’ condition and indicated that their health had deteriorated significantly since March of 2002, when another bear was confiscated and moved to The Baltimore Zoo.
"A necropsy (animal autopsy) will be performed at the zoo and tissue samples will be sent to the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University for a more complete analysis. The zoo should have final results in about three weeks.
"The zoo’s second polar bear, Wilhelm, that arrived with Masha in 2002 is in stable health but will likely never fully recover from his years of similar poor living conditions at the circus. He remains on exhibit daily."